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misplaced loyalty Dublin man jailed for causing damage to a van and running at victim with hatchet

The accused and his co-accused can be seen causing damage to the van and running towards the house with the accused wielding a hatchet

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A Dublin man's misplaced loyalty resulted in a one-year prison sentence after he caused damage to a van and ran at the victim with a hatchet.

Gavin Challenger (27) of Sillogue Green, Ballymun, Dublin, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal damage and one charge of unlawful intimidation at Plunket Avenue, Finglas, on March 21, 2020.

Garda Dwayne O'Brien told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that at approximately 4.45 pm on the date in question, Mr Jason O'Byrne was told that damage had occurred to his white Renault Master van, which was parked outside his house.

Damage was seen on the front windscreen, the left side window, and the left side door. While examining the damage, Mr O'Byrne saw a black Ford focus pull up, and two men known to him got out of the car.

Both men ran towards the victim, with Challenger wielding a hatchet. Mr O'Byrne was able to get inside his house while holding and blocking the door with his body.

The accused and his co-accused remained outside trying to gain entry, with the co-accused shouting, "I am going to kill you, Jason". The men did not get into the house and left after a short time.

Gda O'Brien stated that both Mr O'Byrne and his girlfriend gave similar accounts of the incident. CCTV footage obtained from a neighbouring house was examined, and the accused and his co-accused can be seen causing damage to the van and running towards the house with the accused wielding a hatchet.

Challenger was subsequently arrested. During the garda interview, the accused said he did not remember anything that had happened that day. He also admitted to having taken "tablets" before the incident.

Elva Duffy BL, prosecuting, told the court that Challenger had 71 previous convictions.

Aoife O'Leary BL, defending, highlighted that her client had pleaded guilty and fully accepts his actions. She said he is very remorseful for his actions.

The court heard the co-accused was a lifelong friend of Challenger and that he became embroiled in an incident that had nothing to do with him. The defence stated that their client retreated very quickly from the house, and this was the first time he was serving a prison sentence as an adult.

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Challenger began abusing substances in his youth following many difficult events such as the breakdown of his parent's relationship and the death by suicide of his girlfriend when he was aged 16.

In 2019 the accused became homeless and was reliant on hostel accommodation while also abusing substances. He is the father of two young girls and is now in a relationship with the mother of his children.

Challenger was on bail for 14 months before this incident, but is currently serving a prison sentence in Mountjoy for a former drug offence. During these 14 months, he did not come to the attention of the gardaí.

While in custody, the accused has engaged with prison services and addiction support. The court was presented with a favourable report from the prison governor and chaplain. Challenger has also offered to give his Prison Release Fund of €900 to his victim as compensation.

Passing sentence, Judge Pauline Codd stated that the accused acted in a grossly immature manner during this incident at Plunket Avenue.

Judge Codd said she took his guilty plea, his clear acceptance of responsibility and his remorse into account as mitigating factors. In addition, she noted that this seems to be a watershed incident in the accused's life and he is actively taking the opportunity to improve his life while he is in prison.

The judge stated that she was satisfied that the accused had a significant prospect of rehabilitation. She sentenced Challenger to three years in prison with the final two years suspended on the count of criminal damage.

She also sentenced him to two years imprisonment with the final year suspended for the charge of unlawful intimidation, with both sentences running concurrently.

Judge Codd suspended the periods on conditions including that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour, continue under the supervision of the Probation Service and undergo urine drug testing on release from prison.

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