Dutch woman gets three years for firearm possession

A Dutch woman whose partner has been jailed for one of the state’s biggest-ever heroin seizures in Meath in 2006 has been given a three-year sentence for possession of pistol ammunition on the same occasion.

Caroline Van Dongeren (aged 32) of The Lane, Foxlodge Woods, Ratoath was found guilty by a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court following a two-day trial last January of having two magzines containing 20 bullets on June 24, 2006 at her home.

Judge Tony Hunt suspended the final 18 months of the sentence on account of her three young children and said: "I have no doubt she is a good and decent mother but I have to bear in mind the other children out there who, had the gardai not intervened, might have been injured by the objects she was convicted for."

"Firearms are a serious risk to the health and well-being of society as a whole as well as the individual therein," he added.

Judge Hunt had directed a "not guilty" verdict at her trial on a second charge of unlawful possession of a Luger ‘Glock’ gun on the same occasion.

Defence counsel, Mr Peter Finlay SC, said Van Dongeren came to Ireland to work as part of her studies in marketing and had been living here for seven years.

Mr Finlay said she worked in IBM for four years and during that time met Coffey with whom she had three children. Counsel noted that according to her probation report she was at a low risk of reoffending.

Alan Coffey, a 32-year-old electrician and father of six, from the same address was jailed for 15 years last November for possession on the same date of heroin valued €5.75m, the largest ever seizure of heroin in the State at the time.

He also admitted unlawful possession of a 9mm Glock semiautomatic pistol at Brookvale Road, River Valley, Swords on the same occasion.

A second man, Frank Nolan, a 29-year-old mechanic from Georges Court, Balbriggan was jailed for seven years for possession for an unlawful purpose of four semiautomatic pistols and 2,974 rounds of ammunition on the same date at the same Swords address.

The gun, ammunition and the drugs were recovered following a surveillance operation after gardai received confidential information. The two men were seen going into different pubs with friends on the night of June 23, 2006 before they all moved to Nolan's home.

Coffey was then seen by gardai leaving Nolan's home and putting "an object" in the boot of his Silver VW Passat parked outside before he drove home to Ratoath. The next day gardai carried out simultaneous searches on both Coffey's and Nolan's home.

A search of Coffey's home revealed two large boxes of 28.75kg of heroin worth €5.75m. Coffey told gardai the drugs were cocaine and he was taking responsibility for them. A search of the VW Passat outside his home revealed a ‘Glock’ semiautomatic pistol. He accepted the car was his but said he had never seen the gun before.

Detective Garda Alan Campbell told prosecuting counsel, Mr Sean Gillane BL, that the two loaded magazines were found in Van Dongeren’s handbag in the kitchen of their home.

He said Gardai also recovered €13,900 cash which was found hidden in a sock and two small amounts of cocaine, worth €2,909, were found in the pockets of a jacket and hooded top in a wardrobe.

Judge Hunt ordered the drugs, gun and ammunition to be forfeited and destroyed.

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