A man who agreed to drive a car containing a loaded pistol and a petrol can full of accelerant has been jailed for six years.
Robert Cruise (34) of Cromcastle Court, Kilmore, Dublin 5, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to being in control of a semi-automatic pistol at Northbrook Avenue, Dublin on June 15th, 2017. He also pleaded guilty to being in possession of six rounds of ammunition on the same date.
The court heard that Cruise was stopped by gardaí around 10pm that night on Northbrook Road, and they searched him because he was “visibly on edge”.
At the time, Cruise was standing talking to another man. They discovered a single car key on Cruise which he claimed belonged to his brother.
Gardaí took the key and later found that it opened the door of a car parked some distance away.
There was a small, black, loaded pistol in the car, along with a petrol can filled with an accelerant, and a motorbike helmet with clothes inside it.
While this vehicle was being searched, gardaí spotted a Saab car, but the driver moved on when he saw the officers. Gardaí believed the people in the Saab had been keeping the vehicle the gardaí were searching under observation.
Cruise was arrested in May the following year after his fingerprints were found on the bag that was holding the petrol can. He has 67 previous convictions, including threats to kill and assault causing harm.
The court heard that Cruise immediately gave his correct name and address to gardaí when he was first approached, while the man he had been talking to gave a false name.
It was accepted that it had been the accused’s job to move the car in which the gun was found, but that he was not going to have a role in whatever was planned with that gun.
Dean Kelly SC, defending, told Judge Melanie Greally that his client had a drug debt of €3,000 and became involved in the offence after he was threatened.
He had been due to drive the car and then hand over the key.
“He was used,” Mr Kelly said, “by people who were in a totally different category to him”.
Counsel suggested that Cruise was taking “an enormous risk” to drive a car with those items in it through the city centre at the time when it was heavily policed.
Judge Greally said Cruise was ultimately detected because his fingerprint was found on a bag which contained a petrol can in the same vehicle as a loaded firearm.
She accepted there was “some degree of pressure applied to him to carry out this function” and that he was not “materially gaining” from it.
Judge Greally accepted that despite his previous convictions, this type of offence was “out of character” for Cruise and noted that he struggled with addiction and mental health difficulties.
She imposed an eight-year sentence with the final two years suspended.