A 35-year old Belfast man was handed a five-year sentence today after he admitted possessing a gun used in a “potentially murderous” attack upon a family home.
Belfast Crown Court heard that whilst there was no evidence to link Gerard Flannigan to the gun attack on a house at Velsheda Court in Ardoyne in September 2014, he took delivery of the semi-automatic pistol just hours after the shooting.
Despite initial denials Flannigan, from Colin View Street, pleaded guilty to three offences and was handed a five-year sentence. Judge Geoffery Miller told Flannigan that he will serve half his sentence in prison, with the remainder spent on licence upon his release.
The court heard that three children were at home when shots were fired at the male occupant of the property in an attack branded as “cold-planned” and “potentially murderous” by Judge Miller.
Crown prosecutor Terence Mooney QC said Flannigan was arrested after the gun used in the attack was found wrapped in two plastic bags underneath his partner’s parked car the following day.
The weapon was discovered in the carpark of a Helm Housing Complex in west Belfast by a cleaner on the morning of September 4, 2014. The cleaner noticed an object in an Argos bag underneath a car, which prompted the intervention of the cleaner’s manager.
Mr Mooney said the car under which the bag was found was registered to a woman who lived at Helm and who was Flannigan’s partner.
When the manager realised what the “heavy and metallic” item in the bag was, he put the bag into the boot of his car and took it to Grosvenor Road police station.
The Sphinx semi automatic pistol was tested and was found to contain three bullets in the magazine, with a fourth bullet stuck in the weapon’s breach.
The court heard that Flannigan’s DNA was found on the weapon, whilst his fingerprints were located on one of the two bags which contained the gun.
Mr Mooney said spent cartridges found at the scene of the gun attack at Vesheda Court on the evening of September 3 were linked to the same pistol found in the Argos bag the following morning.
The senior prosecutor said that thankfully no-one was physically harmed in the gun attack. He added there was “no evidence” to link Flannigan to the shooting, and that he did not match the description of the gunman. He did, however, take possession of the weapon and magazine “within hours” of the attack.
When Flannigan was arrested on October 27th 2014, he made a ‘no comment’ reponse during interview. At the end of his third interview, Flannigan issued a pre-prepared statement in which he denied the firearms offences. Part of the statement said: “I have never seen this gun before and I have no knowledge of this gun and it has never been in my possession.”
In the statement, Flannigan also stated: “I am not a member of any proscribed organisation and never have been.”
He subsequently pleaded guilty to three offences - namely possession of a firearm and ammunition in suspicious circumstances, possessing the semi-automatic pistol without a firearm certificate, and possessing ammunition without a firearm certificate.
Defence barrister Greg Berry told the court Flannigan came before the court at the age of 35 with no previous convictions.
Mr Berry said that whilst his client admitted possessing the weapon, there was nothing to suggest he had any knowledge of what it was used for the day before its discovery.
The barrister added that Flannigan “wants to do his time and get on with his life when he gets out and put this matter behind him.”
Passing sentence, Judge Miller pointed out that Flannigan had “offered no explaination” for how or why he came to be in possession of the gun, as well as displaying no remorse. He also branded Flannigan’s initial acertion in his pre-prepared statement to police as “completely untrue.”