Man jailed for possession of a firearm will not face higher sentence

Central Criminal Court
Central Criminal Court

A man jailed for less than the presumptive five-year minimum sentence for possession of a firearm will not face an increased sentence despite an appeal by prosecutors.

Sarunas Juozaponis aka Tomas Banaitas (24), of Warrenstwon Garth, Blanchardstwon, Dublin 15, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of a 9mm firearm and possession of two magazines each containing 14 bullets at Grange Road, Clonsilla in the capital on September 13 2013.

He was sentenced to three years and three months imprisonment by Judge Martin Nolan on November 11 2014.

The Director of Public Prosecutions unsuccessfully sought a review of Juozaponis' sentence toda in the Court of Appeal on the grounds that it was unduly lenient.

Speaking on behalf of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Alan Mahon, said Juozaponis was observed by gardaí burying something behind a hedge on the occasion in question.

As the gardaí approached Juozaponis, he ran, dropping a fake Lithuanian driving license.

Counsel for the DPP, Diarmuid Collins BL, pointed to the fact that the magazines had been taped together and the serial number on the gun had been deliberately obliterated. That was a “sinister aspect” in the words of Mr Justice George Birmingham.

Mr Collins further submitted that Juozaponis' lack of previous convictions and his guilty plea were insufficient to justify a departure from the minimum sentence.

Mr Justice Mahon said the presumptive minimum sentence for possession of an illegal firearm was five years but certain matters can be taken into account by the courts.

In this case, the sentencing judge decided it would be appropriate to depart from the presumptive minimum sentence due to Juozaponis lack of previous convictions, his guilty plea and likelihood of rehabilitation.

Mr Justice Mahon said the sentencing judge had arrived at the figure of four years and reduced this to three-and-a-quarter to take account of the fact that Juozaponis was a non-national and would receive no prison visits.

To date, he has not received any prison visits, the judge said.

The Court agreed with counsel for Juozaponis, Padraig Dwyer SC, that the sentence had not been shown to be unduly lenient.

Accordingly, Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice Birmingham and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, refused the DPP's application for a review of sentence.