Judge Mary Devins directed the forfeiture of two pepper sprays and a taser found in the apartment of a Ballina man. The direction was made during an application for police property. A number of other items which were seized were directed to be returned to the man.
Sergeant James Murphy told Ballina District Court that following a written complaint on May 7 2011, about a shot being fired at a jackdaw from the apartment of Paul McDonnell, 20 Cual Gara, Teeling Street, Ballina, a search warrant was obtained and executed. Mr McDonnell was not at home so the gardaí forced entry to the apartment and searched the home.
Stored in the shower in a locked en suite were a number of items which were seized. Items were described in court as: ball bearings, a high pressure pump for a rifle, crossbow arrows, the metal barrel of a .22 calibre pistol, a gun silencer, a trigger mechanism for a handpiece for gun, CO2 capsules for pressuring air pistols, a large number of paper targets, a target taped to a green box which had been shot at. In another room two pillows were found taped together marked with an X and there were puncture holes through them. On the wall was a wooden shotgun stock. In the kitchen drawer there were two retractable batons and a taser. Also found in the apartment were two pepper sprays, two Indian daggers, sights for rifles, a knife in a pouch, and footage on a camcorder which showed a young person being instructed how to shoot. Documentation seized showed receipts for components of firearms and an instruction manual for the gun of which the barrel was found in the house.
Mr McDonnell told the court that he thought his home had been robbed when he returned and alleged that the gardaí caused extensive damage to his property, including smashing a CCTV, and he said that money was also missing from his kitchen drawer.
Judge Devins said that if McDonnell had a complaint about the gardaí the court was not the correct forum and asked him if he wanted to see the return of his items or if he wanted them forfeited.
Mr McDonnell said a number of the items on the list were not as described and said that everything he admitted to owning was legal and bought over the counter. He said the so-called Indian daggers were family heirlooms — cookery knives which his father brought back from Canada. He said that other items were for his hobbies of airsoft, paintballing, and archery. He denied owning a taser. He said that he did buy pepper spray in Dublin. In relation to a knife found, Mr McDonnell said it was just a display knife, “I’m a sucker for gadgets at the best of times.” He said he bought the retractable batons, and the video footage showed him and a 17-year-old shooting airsoft. The green box found in his house was also for airsoft practice and he said the pillows were not for any sort of target practice, they were just pillows.
Superintendent Pat McHugh said he had “serious concern” about the items seized and ask for their forfeiture.
Judge Devins said that the application for forfeiture highlights the lack of relevant legislation dealing with a lot of items on the list, as most of them could be legally obtained and possessed. The judge said: “The possession of them may cause disquiet, nonetheless because of the deficiencies in the current legislation it is not illegal to own them.” Judge Devins said the only items that she can direct to be forfeited were the taser and pepper sprays. The judge then directed the return of the remainder with “enormous disquiet”.