herald

Friday 24 January 2020

Man who shot himself in the leg jailed over €18k of drugs in home

James Byrne was jailed for both firearm and drug offences. Pic: Collins Photo Agency
James Byrne was jailed for both firearm and drug offences. Pic: Collins Photo Agency

A father-of-four who accidentally shot himself in the leg and claimed he had been shot on the street has been jailed for 18 months after gardai responding to the incident.

After arriving at his home, gardai found a quantity of drugs and the accused later faced both drugs and firearms charges.

James Byrne (45), of Coultry Crescent, Ballymun, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of drugs for sale or supply.

He also pleaded guilty to recklessly discharging a firearm at his next-door neighbour's address on December 9, 2017.

Bang

Garda Niall Carroll told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that on the date in question. gardai received a report that a man had sustained a gunshot wound to his leg.

Gardai attended at the accused's address and found him lying on the floor clutching both legs. He told gardai he was walking home when he heard a bang and realised he had been shot.

Byrne later admitted that he had acquired a gun himself that day as he planned to kill himself. He went into his neighbour's house with the intention of placing the gun on the adjoining back garden wall so that his wife and children would not see it.

The accused showed the gun to his neighbour, who made an attempt to get it away from him.

During the scuffle, the gun went off as Byrne's finger had been on the trigger and he felt the bullet enter his leg.

During a search of the house, gardai discovered a semi-automatic Makarov pistol in the garden shed. They also found cannabis resin behind wood panelling in the shed with a value of €18,000.

Byrne told gardai that he was holding the drugs in order to pay off a drug debt.

He had previous convictions for unlawful possession of drugs, burglary and road traffic offences. He has four children and two grandchildren.

Gda Carroll agreed with Michael Bowman SC, defending, that the accused was not on the garda radar for criminality.

Mr Bowman submitted Pieta House documents which confirmed that his client was experiencing suicidal ideation the day before the offences.

Family

He said the court should consider not jailing his client.

Judge Martin Nolan said Byrne was a good family man but that he had his problems.

He noted the guilty plea, and co-operation with gardai.

The judge said if the case had simply been the firearms charge alone, he would have imposed a suspended sentence as it arose from an act of desperation.

However, he noted Byrne "knew right from wrong" and deserved a custodial sentence in relation to the drugs charge.

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