Man has sentence for possession of explosive timer reduced

CourtsBy Sunday World
Nicholas Kendall (25) of Row Street, Wexford, had pleaded guilty
Nicholas Kendall (25) of Row Street, Wexford, had pleaded guilty

A Wexford man caught possessing a timer for an explosive device months after gardai uncovered a cache of explosive components in a shed at his parent’s home has had his 12 year prison sentence reduced on appeal.

Nicholas Kendall (25) of Row Street, Wexford, had pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of a variety of explosive substances, including chemical components for Semtex, components of fusing systems for mortar bombs, improvised timing power units, explosive propellant powder and clothes pegs adapted to act as electro-mechanical switches.

Gardai uncovered the cache after simultaneous raids on his parent’s rural home at Springcrest, Keelogues, Barntown, Co Wexford and a house at Cortown, Togher, Dunleer, Co Louth on October 8th, 2010.

Kendall also pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of a component part of a timing power unit and a 9mm Smith & Wesson semi-automatic model SW 9F pistol at the same address in Co Louth on the same date.

He additionally pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of a component part of a timing power unit designed for initiating an explosive device, found at his parent’s home while he was on bail for the previous offences on February 18th, 2011.

Three judges sitting at the non-jury Special Criminal Court sentenced him to 12 years imprisonment on December 1, 2011.

Kendall successfully appealed his sentence yesterday on grounds that it was unduly excessive and “manifestly unjust”.

His barrister, Anne-Marie Lawlor BL, said she could not think of any 12 year sentence imposed by the Special Criminal Court on a 20-year-old, as he was at the time of the offence, with no previous convictions.

Speaking on behalf of the three-judge court, Mr Justice George Birmingham said it “goes without saying” that these were very serious offences.

Explosives offences were inherently serious and even more so when they were committed against the backdrop of terrorist or dissident republican activity.

The country has seen the appaling consequences that follow when such devices are detonated by dissident republicans, Mr Justice Birmingham said.

Serious as they were, the court was of the view that the Special Criminal Court (SCC) “erred”.

There had been a long tradition in the SCC of giving particular credit for pleas of guilty in recognition of the fact that making a plea “will in many cases not be easy”, the judge said.

In recent times, he said trials in the Special Criminal Court had become particulartly lengthy giving rise to long delays to the extent that in the recent past a decision was taken to set up a second Special Criminal Court.

There was a further dimension to Kendall's plea in that it appeared he was aware of the Supreme Court ruling known as 'Damache' and that might have provided "some scope for argument" in a contested trial, Mr Justice Birmingham said.

Furthermore, an effective sentence of 12 years imprisonment on a 21-year-old with no previous convictions “failed to fully reflect the totality principle”.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the appropriate sentence was two five year terms to run consecutively with the final 21 months suspended.