Gang members all face charge of murder if arrested
Analysis:It makes little or no difference if gang’s main focus was to rob rather than kill
While only one of the five gang members who robbed the Lordship Credit Union fired the gun that killed Det Garda Adrian Donohoe, legal sources have said it is a “racing certainty” all five would be charged with murder if arrested.
A number of senior legal sources said it made little or no difference if the gang’s main focus was to rob the credit union rather than kill, or that four of them did not fire a gun.
The same sources said the case would centre on the fact that the gang members were joined in a common enterprise to rob money in a raid during which all knew weapons were present and would certainly, or even likely, be used.
In addition to the shotgun used to fire the fatal shot, the gang were also carrying a handgun and a hammer.
“By going along on the robbery with guns, any member of a group is tacitly signing up to an agreement that those guns would be put into use, as a threat or to fire. Why else would they have them?” said one source.
Another source said even if some members of the gang did not intend for the guns to be fired, this would offer them little protection against the charge of capital murder, which carries a sentence of 40 years without remission.
“A suspect could argue: ‘Look, I never intended anyone to be shot’, but really they would be on very, very thin ice. They were there, they knew guns were being brought along.
“The natural logic is that guns were being brought along because they were to be put into play if needed; even if only to threaten or fire over the head of someone. But once you put a gun into action like that, it has to be your expectation that somebody is likely to get injured or killed.”
Other sources pointed out that in order for a murder charge to be pursued in this case, there did not need to be intent to kill at the outset of the robbery conspiracy. There did not even need to be intent to kill on the spur of the moment when the raiders came upon an armed detective.
“Intent to cause serious injury is enough to base a murder charge on in a case where the victim has died after someone targets them with violence. People are held accountable for even the unintended consequences of their actions when logic dictates that the outcome of their violence is possible serious injury or death.”
A number of sources point to the shooting dead of a Garda sergeant in Ardee, Co Louth, in the 1980s as offering valuable insight into how the courts might handle the five-strong gang who shot dead Det Garda Donohoe if enough evidence is found to prosecute them.
Sgt Patrick Morrissey (49) was shot dead following an armed robbery at Ardee labour exchange in Co Louth on June 27th, 1985. He was wounded when giving chase to raiders Noel Callan and Michael McHugh. After McHugh wounded Sgt Morrissey, he shot him as he lay injured on the ground.
Both men were convicted of murder: McHugh because he had fired the shots that first injured and later killed, and Callan because he was part of an enterprise willing to shoot its way out of being caught.
Sentenced to death
Both were sentenced to death, though that was commuted to 40 years in jail. When Callan appealed in 2002 he accepted he was part of an armed enterprise and even that he was willing to shoot his way out if he was about to be captured.
However, he made the case that any common design between him and McHugh ended when Sgt Morrissey was injured and did not include any design subsequently to kill him. The appeal was rejected. While Callan did not fire a shot, he and McHugh are both in prison nearly 28 years later and are not due for release until 2026.