An “Arthur Daly” type used-car dealer who supplied a vehicle for a dissident operation to place a bomb under a PSNI officer’s jeep in Belfast will be sentenced later this month at the non-jury Special Criminal Court.
Defence counsel Bernard Condon SC, for the convicted man, submitted to the three-judge court during Monday’s sentence hearing that there was no evidence his client had knowledge of or involvement in the planting of the bomb.
Last month, the court found Robert O’Leary (42), of Clancy Road, Finglas, Dublin 11, guilty of membership of an unlawful organisation, styling itself as the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Óglaigh na hÉireann, at a location within the State on August 20th, 2019. He had denied the charge.
At Monday’s sentence hearing, Det Supt Michael Gibbons from the Special Detective Unit, told prosecution counsel Paul Greene SC that O’Leary had no relevant previous convictions. The witness said the used-car dealer is a father-of-two, who runs a garage and sells cars from time to time.
Under cross-examination, Det Supt Gibbons agreed with Mr Condon that the defendant had answered bail at all times.
The detective further agreed that O’Leary also employed nine people full-time in his business.
Mr Condon submitted to the non-jury court that there is no evidence his client had knowledge of or involvement in the substantive offence and said the court could not trespass into that area. O’Leary had at all times acknowledged the court process and respected the court, he added.
Counsel handed in to the court four testimonials and highlighted to the three-judge panel that his client had been “hit by cancer” in 2008.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt told Mr Condon that all the court had to go on was the supporting evidence and that was the limit of it. The lawyer agreed with this statement saying: “There is no evidence of association in this case going back many years”.
Mr Justice Tony Hunt, sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Dermot Dempsey, remanded O’Leary in custody until October 16th, when he will be sentenced.
Delivering judgment last month, Mr Justice Hunt said that the Skoda Octavia car had been used to survey the area around the PSNI officer’s home in Belfast and stopped nearby for three minutes while the device was planted under his car.
The judge said the accused man had invented a purchaser for the Skoda car — a mysterious man — to break the link between him and the Octavia. The defendant had bought, moved on and repaired the car in a “purposeful way” and to suggest that this was some kind of “spontaneous long-shot” was not borne out by the CCTV in the case, he added.
O’Leary, who described himself as a “bit of an Arthur Daly” [the lead character from the 1980s UK TV series Minder] told detectives in his interviews that they were “barking up the wrong tree” and “never in a million years” would he source a car for use in an IRA operation.