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Man with links to Cornelius Price who was sentenced to seven years for possession of 1940s gun to appeal

The court heard that Gibbons had married Price's aunt but that the relationship had since broken down

A man linked to convicted criminal Cornelius Price has appealed against his conviction for having a World War II era sub-machine gun that was found during a garda search near Price's home in Co Meath.

Stephen Gibbons (58) of Rockleigh House, Richardstown, Gormanston, Co Meath, had denied a charge of unlawfully possessing a 9mm Makarov PM-63 RAK submachine pistol on or about January 15, 2020, at Richardstown in the county. He was convicted by a jury in May 2021 at Trim Circuit Court, who also found him not guilty of possessing ammunition at the same date and location.

At Gibbons's trial, Carl Hanahoe BL, prosecuting, had told the court that two members of the Garda Armed Response Unit had been on patrol in the area that night. As they drove down a lane they met Gibbons, who lived in a mobile home at Rockleigh House, walking in the opposite direction at 8.45 pm.

The trial heard that Gibbons said he was out "just stretching his legs as he was stiff'. Around an hour later the gardaí encountered Gibbons again who this time told them that he was looking for his dog but gardaí said that no dog could be seen. Gardaí searched Gibbons and then conducted a search of the area. Almost two hours later gardaí found a sub-machine gun and a jar containing ammunition in a black bin bag in a ditch.

Cornelius Price

The court was told the weapon dated from 1945 and was coated in a thick lubricant to prevent rust. The gun was serviceable but two discharged bullets were blocking the barrel and there was no evidence to suggest it had recently been discharged.

A detective Garda said that after he fitted a replacement barrel to the weapon it was capable of both semi automatic and fully automatic fire.

The court heard that Gibbons had married Price's aunt but that the relationship had since broken down, while Gibbons remained on Price's land in Gormanstown.

Today at the Court of Appeal, Mr Garnet Orange SC, for Gibbons, said his application to quash the conviction was an "unusual one" in that it involved questioning the jury's verdict in terms of it being "logically inconsistent".

Mr Orange said the question will be whether or not the jury fully understood their role regarding the evidence before them.

Mr Orange said his client was living in the mobile home which was in an area used by a number of New Age Travellers. Mr Orange said that the gun and 12 rounds of ammunition in a glass jar were found in the same bag, while gardaí had identified his client as a suspect by virtue of a hair stuck to the lubricant on the pistol.

Mr Orange said that it was "illogical" for a jury to convict his client on possession of the pistol because of the "critical" weight given to the presence of the hair when it was in the same bag at the same location as the ammunition over which Gibbons was acquitted.

Mr Orange said it was "inconsistent" that his client would be convicted due to the presence of a single hair, which was a "moveable object" that could have fallen out at any time.

Mr Hanahoe, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, told the three-judge court that the jury had been advised by the trial judge on the distinction between the two counts and were fully aware of that distinction when asking questions of one charge and not the other at the trial. He said the prosecution did not open or close on DNA evidence alone and that the jury had been given a test with a "very high" bar.

The Court of Appeal has reserved its judgement in the case.

At Gibbons' sentence hearing Judge Martina Baxter identified as an aggravating factor the association of such a firearm with organised criminality and backdated the sentence to April 2020, when Gibbons was arrested .

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