A “naive” man who made a “catastrophic error of judgment” by opening the gates of his father’s quarry and allowing the IRA to take explosives away has avoided an immediate jail sentence.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt said on Monday this was an "unusual case" which had "unfortunate and exceptional circumstances".
Larry Behan (41), of Eaton Close, Rathcoole, Co Dublin pleaded guilty last month to knowingly rendering assistance to the IRA in the possession of explosives at L Behan Aggregates & Recycling Centre, Windmillhill, Rathcoole, Co Dublin on April 13th, 2016.
The offence is contrary to Section 21A of the Offences Against the State Act, 1939, as inserted by Section 49 of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act, 2005.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Hunt said Behan had not been a person of interest to gardai in the context of subversive activity.
The judge outlined that gardai had become curious as to how two men had gained access to the quarry and spoke to Behan. The investigation showed that these men had made contact with the defendant in order to lift the gate to the quarry but there had been “no personal interaction” between Behan and the men, the judge said.
John Roche (55), of Bridgefoot Street, Dublin 8 and John Brock (46), with an address at Cushlawn Park, Tallaght, Dublin 24 were each sentenced to seven years in prison after being found guilty by the Special Criminal Court of possessing 57kg of homemade explosives, consisting of ammonium nitrate fuel mix, and 38 2.5kg rolls of Kemegel industrial explosives at Naas Road, Dublin 12, on April 13th, 2016.
John Roche’s car had been under surveillance at the time and was observed going into Behan’s Quarry on Windmillhill in Rathcoole, Co Dublin at 7pm that day.
Referring to Behan, the judge noted that it was accepted that the defendant had “genuinely thought” that the explosive material was no longer of use and an individual with subversive contacts, who was working in the quarry, had an “ulterior motive” for these explosives.
Furthermore, Mr Justice Hunt said that the defendant had been informed prior to the removal of the explosives from the disused shed in Rathcoole that they were to be passed on to a dissident organisation. Following this, pressure had been imposed on Behan so that he would keep to the arrangement which was naively entered into by him, said the judge, adding that the defendant had told gardai in his interviews that he feared for himself and his family.
However, the judge said that once the explosives came to the attention of the unlawful organisation they would have been removed either way.
Having regard to the gravity of the offence, the judge said it fell in the upper part of the lower range and the headline sentence was two years in prison.
Mitigating factors in sentencing, Mr Justice Hunt said, were the fact that he had no previous convictions, had cooperated with the authorities by making immediate admissions and had entered a guilty plea.
The court also took into account his previous good work record and the fact that he had provided evidence to gardai which was vital to the case against him.
Having considered the submissions made by Behan's barrister, the judge said that not imposing an immediate custodial sentence in this case was justified. Mr Justice Hunt, sitting with Judge Patricia Ryan and Judge Ann Ryan, sentenced Behan to two years in prison and suspended it for those two years on his own bond of €100. He must keep the peace and be of good behaviour during this time.
Addressing Behan, Mr Justice Hunt said this case had “exceptional and unfortunate circumstances” and insisted that he must not come back before the court again.