Kildare man found with an "arsenal" of firearms to be sentenced later this month

Thousand rounds of ammunition and four loaded revolvers

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Kildare man found with an "arsenal" of firearms to be sentenced later this month

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A Kildare man found last year with an "arsenal" of firearms and ammunition in a Dublin business park will be sentenced later this month at the non-jury Special Criminal Court. 

The court heard during today's sentence hearing that gardai recovered over a thousand rounds of ammunition and four loaded revolvers which were "ready to be used".

Jonathan Harding (45) of McNeill Court, Sallins, Co Kildare, and James Walsh (33), with an address at Neilstown Drive, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 both pleaded guilty last year to the possession of nine revolvers, four pistols, a sub-machinegun, an assault rifle and various ammunition magazines.

The men were found with the cache on January 24 last year at a unit in Greenogue Business Park, Rathcoole, Co Dublin.

At today's sentence hearing, Detective Inspector Noel Browne, of the National Drugs and Organized Crime Bureau, summarized the facts of the case. 

He told prosecuting counsel Sean Gillane SC that after receiving information on January 23, 2017, gardai put in place a surveillance operation on individuals in the Rathcoole area. 

On the morning of January 24, Harding and another man were observed driving a Ford transit van to Greenogue Business Park.

The court heard that Harding "took a circuitous route" to the business park before parking outside block 507.

The detective said that a Passat, to which Walsh had access, was also parked outside.

The premises continued to be observed, the court heard.

Harding and the other man were seen leaving the unit in the same van before stopping at a Texaco service station.

The detective said that because of the "urgent and pressing nature" of the investigation he gave instructions that the van be stopped.

Gardai approached the van and arrested Harding and the other man.

Meanwhile, in the business park, other officers went into the unit and found an arsenal of firearms and ammunition, the detective said.

The court heard that the unit was purporting to be the premises of a logistics company, giving the impression it was a legitimate freight business based in the UK.

Det Insp Browne said that in upstairs loft area, a number of loaded firearms were laid out on cardboard on the floor.

There were four loaded revolvers, "ready to be used", and an AK47 assault weapon.

Gardai also found more guns and ammunition in two cardboard boxes. A number of the firearms were sealed inside bags also containing suitable ammunition.

The court heard that Harding has two previous convictions. In 2004 at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court he was jailed for six years for possession of more than €700,000 worth of drugs for sale or supply.

Walsh has a number of previous convictions for public order offences.

Det Insp Browne agreed with Sean Guerin SC, for Harding, that his client's early plea had prevented a lengthy trial.

He also said that Harding was not in a leadership role.

"He was a willing participant but not a person who had the acumen to devise such an operation," the inspector said.

The inspector told Micheal Bowman SC, for Walsh, that his client was a "trusted lieutenant in the operation" but not a prime mover.

Walsh was not forensically connected with any of the weapons, the court heard.

Mr Gillane said the DPP's position is that the case is at the higher end of the scale in terms of sentencing, because of the nature of the firearms and the "sheer volume of them".

Four revolvers on the cardboard were "primed, armed and ready to be used", the barrister said.

He also noted the context in which the arsenal was found, in a "well-constructed ruse" to run premises which was a legitimate enterprise.

Mr Guerin asked the court to take into mitigation that his client was not in a leadership role and that he was offering a "wholehearted apology" to the court.

Mr Bowman said that Walsh's brother who had a drug addition had got into "spiralling debts" and as a consequence his client had got involved in the offences in question.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Patricia Ryan and Judge Ann Ryan, remanded the men in custody until January 30, when they will be sentenced.