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Dublin Circuit Court judge surprised that possession of empty firearm cartridge is a crime

Judge Martin Nolan
Judge Martin Nolan

A Dublin Circuit Court judge has expressed surprise that being in possession of empty firearm cartridges was a crime as he handed down a suspended sentence.

Sentencing Paul Honer (26) to a three months suspended sentence today for possessing blank firearm cartridges, Judge Martin Nolan expressed surprise that such an act was a crime.

Judge Nolan said he thought that if most people were asked about possessing empty shells it “wouldn’t appear to them it was a criminal offence.”

He said he would not sentence someone to imprisonment for possessing blank cartridges unless the state proved they did so for sinister reasons.

“There are an awful lot accidental criminals” Judge Nolan said.

He said he lived in “a very rural area” and that many people were likely in possession of spent cartridges.

He said, “A lot of my friends, I won’t mention myself” made a hobby of collecting blank cartridges in their youth.

Paul Honer (26) of Clonard Road, Crumlin, Dublin pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of firearm ammunition.

The court heard he kept blank firearm cartridges “in a red box under a fish tank” in his bedroom. He told gardaí his father had given him the shells shortly before his death ten years previously.

Garda Thomas Wafer told Eoin Lawlor BL, prosecuting, that he discovered the ammunition while searching Honer’s house on March 26, 2016.

He said Honer admitted to owning the ammunition.

When asked if he was aware possessing the ammunition was a crime, Honer said “I thought they were legal.”

Honer was arrested for the offence while in prison. He is currently serving a four-and-a-half-year sentence for a firearms offence.

Ian Fitzharris BL, defending, said there was no suggestion that Honer had used the cartridges.

Honer has 14 previous convictions, including for possession of drugs and road traffic offences.