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Suspended Sentence For 20 Year Old Man After Weapons Discovered In Laois

It follows a hearing at Tullamore Circuit Court.

A five-year suspended sentence has been imposed on a defendant who was just 16 years of age when a Glock automatic pistol and a pipe bomb were found in a car he was a passenger in.

Tullamore Circuit Court heard yesterday that Aurimas Bernotas, now aged 20 and with an address at 44 Cuirt na hAbhainn, Tierney Street, Ardee, Co Louth had gone to Limerick with a co-accused in 2016 to pick up the pistol, along with an improvised pipe bomb, 18 rounds of ammunition and an air pistol.

Gardaí found the weapons when they stopped a Honda Accord car at Fatharnagh, Mountrath, Portlaoise and Bernotas admitted the air pistol was his and that he had purchased it on DoneDeal.

He admitted he knew the other items were not legitimate but told gardaí he had not looked in the boot of a car and so did not know precisely what they were.

He also told gardaí he became involved in collecting the arms to pay off a drug debt of between €2,000 and €4,000.

Handing down the sentence, Judge Keenan Johnson said the accused had separately been charged with a number of other offences including drug possession, theft, criminal damage, dangerous driving, assault and stealing a car.

He received a nine-month sentence in the District Court and was remanded in custody on the firearms charges in September last year and remained in custody until the sentencing hearing.

Judge Johnson said the offence before the court, which was possession of a firearm in suspicious circumstances, carried a sentence of between five and 14 years but because of the age of the accused at the time of the offence, the court was not obliged to impose the minimum.

He said the offence was very serious and said if the weapons had come into the wrong hands they could have been used in the perpetration of very serious crimes.

A probation report assessed him as being at high risk of reoffending because of his other convictions, his drug use and negative peer pressure.

In mitigation, he had co-operated with the gardaí as far as it was feasible for him to do and he had obtained qualifications and completed courses while in prison and hoped to qualify as a personal trainer.

He was in the throes of a serious drug addiction when he was found in the car with the weapons but was now drug-free following engagement with the Merchants Quay project.

Judge Johnson also praised the mother of the accused, describing her as a good, decent person who had gone voluntarily to the gardai after finding illicit drugs in her son's room.

He backdated the five-year sentence to when Bernotas went into custody and suspended the balance for seven years on condition he keep the peace, remain under the supervision of the Probation Service and provide urine for analysis when requested.

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