A man found not guilty of having a loaded handgun and 31 rounds of ammunition in a public park in Dublin "needs to take a long look" at himself, a judge of the Special Criminal Court said yesterday.
Paul Norton (31), of Cromcastle Court, Coolock, Dublin 17, had pleaded not guilty to the unlawful possession of a Beretta handgun and 31 rounds of 9mm ammunition at the Stardust Memorial Park in Coolock, Dublin, on October 5 last year.
In the absence of DNA evidence, the trial had heard that the State's case was one of recognition and it was alleged that Mr Norton, while being chased by detectives, dropped a bag which contained a loaded 9mm Beretta 92, a full magazine containing 15 9mm rounds and a further 16 9mm rounds of various descriptions.
Returning judgment yesterday, presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt said gardai were "rightly suspicious" of a VW Passat in the Coolock area.
A high-speed chase ensued and three occupants were seen in the Passat by detectives Jason Flynn and Keith Cassidy.
During the chase, the Passat was damaged and came to a halt at Greencastle Drive in Coolock and three men fled on foot.
Though it was dark on the night, both gardai gave evidence that they could positively identify Mr Norton as the driver.
Mr Justice Hunt said that the position of the defence was only one of not guilty, "in that he [Mr Norton] wasn't present but there is no positive evidence that he was elsewhere and opinions are not admissible evidence".
The judge said he was satisfied that two offences had been committed but that two issues in the case had to be established beyond a reasonable doubt: the identification of Mr Norton and whether or not it was he who dropped the gun and ammunition in the park.
In entering two not guilty verdicts, he said it was "far more likely the firearm and ammunition were in possession of one of the other two men".
"This is not an endorsement of the activities on the night," he told Mr Norton.
The judge praised Det Gda Cassidy and Det Gda Flynn "who undoubtedly prevented death or serious injury".
Mr Justice Hunt warned Mr Norton to "take a long look in the mirror" upon release.