A Leitrim man convicted of threatening to kill a female garda by posting her a spent cartridge and a letter depicting a bloodied hand has been sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Conor McCaffrey (27) of Mullinasillagh, Aghacashel, Carrick-on-Shannon, had been convicted by a jury of five women and seven men following a trial at Carrick-on-Shannon Circuit Criminal Court last November.
McCaffrey had pleaded not guilty to a total of eight charges including threatening to kill or cause serious harm to Detective Garda Karen Ryan on June 27, 2011.
He had also denied threatening to kill or cause serious harm to Detective Sergeant Sean Hogan at Garda Headquarters, Harcourt Square, Dublin on June 21, 2011.
He also faced charges of harassing Det Gda Ryan, Det Gda Sean Walsh and Det Sgt Hogan by sending all three written communications, spent shotgun cartridges and obscene material between June and September 2011.
McCaffrey, who was found guilty of just one count of threatening to kill Det Gda Ryan, has 18 previous convictions including harassment, criminal damage, possession of ammunition and obstructing gardaí.
Judge John O’Hagan, who passed sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court after it was transferred from Carrick-on-Shannon, said the communications sent by McCaffrey revealed “a terrible hatred of An Garda Síochána”.
“The hatred that came across in those letters was an intent to harm and it was quite palpable,” he said.
“On reading this letter, all I can conclude is that the jury took the view that the wording was such that it was in fact a threat to her life, despite the fact that Mr McCaffrey does nothing but express his dissatisfaction with the guards; and a threat to do away with himself,” he said.
Judge O’Hagan said the accused has suffered since he was 16 from depression and various disorders for which he is on a cocktail of drugs.
“You are angry with the world and you want to do things to show you are angry,” he said.
Judge O’Hagan added that the accused believed that the guards were picking on him and had a grudge against him, but that his behaviour to gardaí was inappropriate and very strange.
“On one visit by gardaí to his home, he had set up some weird device by the side of the road whereby the garda cars would be trapped or ensnared and their tyres would be punctured. I mean, this is crazy stuff!” said Judge O’Hagan.
Judge O’Hagan said although McCaffrey has abided by his bail conditions, he could understand why gardaí in Carrick-on-Shannon are “concerned” as to how they might be treated by him in the future.
He said although a probation report on the accused is “constructive” and shows that he has been cooperative, it also says that McCaffrey has “real issues facing up to his offending behaviour” and is “in denial” about his reactions to gardaí.
The judge added that Mr McCaffrey comes from a “wonderful family” who are no doubt “distraught and broken-hearted” by his behaviour.
He recommended that Mr McCaffrey serve his term in Castlerea Prison, near where his parents live so that they will have access to him.
Judge O’Hagan put a stay on the sentence until 11th March 2013, to allow for McCaffrey’s legal team to lodge an application for bail pending an appeal.
Judge O’Hagan said if bail is not granted, the accused will go into custody on that date.
Det Gda Grace O’Boyle told prosecuting counsel Donal Keane BL, that Det Gda Karen Ryan was at work at Store Street Garda Station on the day in question when she got the three-page typed letter containing a spent shotgun cartridge and an image of a hand covered in blood.
She said Det Gda Ryan was shocked and felt “sick” when she opened the envelope and was “extremely frightened” by it and its contents.
The court heard that Det Gda Ryan felt there was a threat to her life and her family’s life and was thinking: “Am I going to walk out of here today and is someone going to be waiting outside to shoot me, to kill me?”
Det Gda O’Boyle said Det Gda Ryan remained “quite anxious, nervous and fearful” about any unexpected correspondence to her home or her place of work.
She said Det Gda Ryan was aware of McCaffrey’s ability to research things on the internet and had been varying her route home from work because she was afraid he would find out her home address.
Counsel for the defence, Brendan Grehan SC, told the court that the accused had apologised for any distress caused to Gda Ryan and although he has admitted sending the letter, has at all times disputed that it was a threat to kill her.