Two brothers who were caught "red-handed" in a Kinahan cartel plot to carry out the "execution style" murder of a member of the Hutch family have withdrawn appeals against the severity of their 12-and-a-half year jail sentences after being informed they could have faced a lengthier term of imprisonment, even if successful.
Gary Thompson (36) of Plunkett Green in Finglas, and his brother Glen (26) of Plunkett Drive, also in Finglas, Dublin 11, were two members of a three-man “hit for hire” gang” that targeted Patrick "Patsy" Hutch.
They pleaded guilty at the Special Criminal Court in July 2019 to unlawful possession of four firearms with intent to endanger life at Belmont Hall Apartments, Gardiner Street in Dublin on March 10th, 2018.
The third member of the gang, a former British army soldier, Robert Browne (37) received an 11 years and six months jail sentence for his role in the crime.
The three armed men were caught just 250 metres from the home of their intended target in Dublin’s north inner city.
At the outset of the appeal hearing on Monday, the president of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice George Birmingham, said the reality of the case was that three individuals were caught “red-handed” in an underground car park as they were about to embark on a murder or execution with firearms that “are about as dangerous as it’s possible to imagine.”
Mr Justice Birmingham said there were aspects of the sentence hearing involving both brothers that “lacked reality” as there were arguments that the case might not attract the mandatory minimum prison sentence for the offence.
“I wonder just what world some people are living in,” he remarked.
Counsel for Glen Thompson, Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha SC, acknowledged that his client had been convicted of a most serious offence but asked the court to consider the youthful age of his client who was 23 at the time of the crime.
Mr Ó Lideadha claimed the appellant had received a sentence one year longer than Browne even though his co-accused was older and had more significant past convictions.
Mr Justice Birmingham noted that Glen Thompson had already received a 25% discount from a headline sentence of 18 years which he remarked was “very much on the generous side.”
Mr Ó Lideadha said his client had only been given a 12-month reduction for all other mitigating factors which was “open to question”, while he also argued Browne was “higher in the chain of command”.
Counsel for Gary Thompson, Michael Bowman SC, also accepted the seriousness of his client’s offence and the level of pre-planning that went into it.
However, Mr Bowman pointed out that the Special Criminal Court had subsequently only given a 10-year jail sentence to another individual, Patrick Curtis, for directing the activities of a criminal organisation including the operation involving the offence for which the Thompsons were convicted.
Curtis (39) of Bellman's Walk, Seville Place, Dublin 1, who was found to be the "top figure" within the Kinahan cartel sub-cell was jailed for 10 years for his role in the plot.
He had pleaded guilty to directing the activities of a criminal organisation within the State between February 1st and March 10th, 2018.
'Sense of grievance'
Mr Bowman submitted the fact that somebody higher up in the criminal gang directing the specific attack got a lower sentence created “a sense of grievance”, while the courts had acknowledged that there was a higher level of culpability for individuals at the higher levels of criminal organisations.
Mr Justice Birmingham said the issue was whether the 12½ year sentences given to the two Thompson brothers were excessive.
The president said one possible answer was that more severe prison terms would have been appropriate in the case.
He questioned if people who had been sentenced to 12½ years after being found in possession of firearms that included submachine guns and semi-automatic pistols after being intercepted on the way to an “execution-style murder” should have “feelings of unfairness.”
Mr Justice Birmingham said any success in the appeal might be “a Pyrrhic victory” as he had made it clear a number of times that he believed they would have got longer prison terms if he had been the sentencing judge.
The other members of the three-judge Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and Ms Isobel Kennedy endorsed the president’s comments.
Counsel for the DPP, Shane Costelloe SC, said there was “a degree of unreality” by the Thompsons to suggest they had been unfairly dealt with by the Special Criminal Court.
Mr Costelloe said it was extremely conceivable that they could have got a far higher sentence.
He claimed other migrating factors apart from the guilty plea were “almost non-existent.”
At the conclusion of the hearing, counsel for the two brothers said they had received instruction to withdraw their appeals.
Mr Justice Birmingham stressed that he was not trying to coerce any party but had been pointing out that identifying some error in the sentencing process is not always advantageous for appellant when it comes to re-sentencing.