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'under threat' Man who helped brother escape from botched armed robbery given suspended sentence

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interior of an empty modern courtroom

A man who provided his car as a means of escape for his older brother after a failed gunpoint robbery has received a fully suspended sentence.

Cillian Cullen (24) joined his older brother after the failed robbery, was present when the initial getaway car was set on fire and then left with his brother in his own car which he had left nearby the previous night.

Cullen with an address at Woodlands, Clonsilla, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to impeding the apprehension of a person at Applegreen, Friarswood, Co Meath, on June 11, 2018.

He has no previous convictions.

Detective Sergeant Shane McCartan told Siobhán Ní Chúlacháin BL, prosecuting, that on the morning in question, the accused's older brother Robert Cullen (29) entered Paddock's Pub in Clonee armed with a sawn-off shotgun and threatened members of staff.

The staff members managed to elude and hide from the armed man, who discharged the shotgun four times into a door before leaving the pub.

One of the staff members looked out a window and saw Robert Cullen getting into a silver VW Gold with a second man.

The court heard that Robert Cullen was sentenced in 2020 to seven-and-a-half years imprisonment for his role in the failed robbery.

Det Sgt McCartan said that Cillian Cullen was picked up by the silver car at a nearby roundabout and accompanied the two men to a town in Co Meath.

The silver car was then set on fire and the three men got into a grey Honda Accord which was registered to the accused.

In interview with gardaí, Cullen said he had left his car at the Applegreen petrol station on the night before the robbery.

Judge Pauline Codd said the court heard evidence that the accused's family were subject to “severe threats of violence” and the family was under threat due to his brother's drug debts.

Judge Codd sentenced Cullen to five years imprisonment, but suspended the entirety of the sentence on condition that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour for five years.

She said she made the decision to fully suspend the sentence on the basis of the “exceptional pressures” that informed the decision of the accused to assist the perpetrators, his lack of previous convictions and his being assessed by the Probation Service as being at a low risk of reoffending.

Det Sgt McCartan agreed with Anne-Marie Lawlor SC, defending, that her client's older brother has a significant amount of previous convictions, including convictions for possession of firearms, possession of explosives and robbery.

The sergeant accepted this has impacted the Cullen family in significant ways, including an attack on their former home.

He agreed that her client and his parents no longer reside in the Dublin 15 area and have moved to a village outside of Co Dublin.

Det Sgt McCartan said the family as a whole were “under pressure” arising from a drug debt owed by Robert Cullen.

Ms Lawlor said the family were effectively burned out of their home and that before the armed robbery her client was told by his brother that there was going to be an execution of someone in the family.

Counsel said her client is currently employed having “entirely divorced himself” from his life in Dublin and is not at all involved with his older brother.

She said her client has “very real” remorse for his actions.

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