Trinity graduate among three found guilty of firearms charges

A Trinity College graduate and two men who were intercepted by armed gardaí outside the premises of a firearms dealer have been found guilty of the possession of handguns and ammunition.

Ursula Shannon (aged 30), who is a Trinity College graduate and prominent member of socialist republican group Eirigi, and her co-accused John McGreal (aged 37) were remanded on continuing bail following the judgement of the Special Criminal Court today and will be sentenced at later date.

Co-accused Colin Brady (aged 24), who was granted bail but did avail of it, was remanded in custody.

The non-jury court heard that the accused were wearing wigs and disguises when they were intercepted by armed gardaí outside a residential premises which also doubled as a business for a licensed firearms seller.

CCTV footage of the interception of the stolen van they were travelling in was played to the court and the prosecution invited the court to infer that the people in the van were there to rob the shop and steal the firearms on the premises.

The accused had pleaded not guilty to the possession of two handguns and 32 rounds of ammunition at Tullybeg, Rahan, Co Offaly on November 27, 2012, but had not challenged any of the evidence in the case.

They had pleaded not guilty to the unlawful possession of one 9mm parabellum calibre Taurus PT92 semi-automatic pistol, one magazine suitable for use with the Taurus PT92 pistol, one 9mm parabellum calibre Walther P5 semi-automatic pistol and one ZGJY branded combined stun gun and flashlight.

They had also each pleaded not guilty to the possession of 25 rounds of 9mm ammunition and seven rounds of 9mm ammunition.

The court heard evidence that interviews were conducted with the accused where Sections 18, 19 and 19A of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 as amended by the Criminal Justice Act 2007 were invoked.

The sections allow a judge or jury to draw inferences from an accused’s failure or refusal to account for an object, substance or mark, or any mark on such object, or failure to account for their presence at a particular place. The judge or jury may treat this as corroborative of other evidence against the accused.

There was evidence that John McGreal remained silent when questions were put to him where the sections were invoked in interview, while Shannon and Brady answered “no comment” when questions were put to them.

Returning judgement, presiding judge Mr Justice Paul Butler said the court was satisfied beyond doubt that each of the accused was in possession of the items referred to in the indictment.

He said the court was also satisfied that the failure of the accused to respond to questions in interview where the sections were invoked entitled the court to draw inferences in each case corroborating the evidence of possession.

By reason of this, Mr Justice Butler said the court found the three accused guilty of the offences with which they were charged.

It was the prosecution case that on the date in question gardaí were in receipt of confidential information that a stolen vehicle would be used as part of an operation by dissident republicans for a theft at a property in Co Offaly.

The court heard that a search of the vehicle revealed the two handguns and the stungun along with the ammunition, cable ties, wigs and disguises.

Gardaí gave evidence that the accused had taken some steps to conceal their physical appearance, and were wearing layers of clothing to make them appear heavier than they actually were. There was evidence that Shannon and McGreal were also wearing wigs.

Mr Justice Butler remanded McGreal, who has an address at Thornchase, Palmer Road, Rush and Shannon, of Inglewood Crescent, Clonsilla, on continuing bail until February 18 for sentencing.

He remanded Mr Brady, of Ashgrove, Baskin Lane, Kinsealy, in custody until that date.

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