A Newcastle man who pointed an imitation firearm at a city centre bouncer and became so aggressive with gardai that pepper spray had to be used to restrain him was sentenced to 13 months in jail this week.
Charles Cunniffe (29 ) with an address at 6 Greenview Heights, Newcastle, appeared before Judge Aeneas McCarthy at Galway District Court on Monday where he pleaded guilty to being in possession of the realistic firearm in a public place at High Street on November 4, 2012. However, Cunniffe denied the charges of threatening and abusive behaviour at High Street and obstruction at Galway Garda Station on the same date.
Garda Emma Kerin gave evidence that at around 2am she had been stopped by a member of security of a nearby pub and told that a man had pointed a gun at him, and that he had felt threatened by the person. After getting description of the suspect Garda Kerin made her way to Kirwin’s Lane where she stopped Cunniffe. Garda Kerin then searched Cunniffe and found the imitation firearm in an inside pocket of his jacket.
The court then heard that at Galway Garda Station Cunniffe became “most abusive and aggitated” in the cell area and refused to sign the notice of rights. He also refused to hand over his jacket and proceeded to shout and swear at gardai. Garda Kerin explained that Cunniffe was told a number of times that the jacket had to be taken off him for his safety and the safety of others, however, the defendant lashed and kicked out with his legs and arms forcing the gardai to use pepper spray. Cunniffe released the jacket and was placed in a cell. The court then watched CCTV footage showing Cunniffe walking down High Street and pointing the firearm at the security man.
Defence solicitor Brian Gilmartin put it to Garda Kerin that his client had been co-operative when stopped at Kirwin’s Lane and that he did not engage in threatening and abusive behaviour. Referring to the CCTV footage, Garda Kerin replied: “It was threatening behaviour in that he was pointing it at the security man.” The court was later told that the firearm was Glock replica.
When Cunniffe took the stand he said that he had been passing the pub when he noticed that the security had become aggressive to a man on crutches. Cunniffe then explained that he wanted to intervene before the situation got out of hand by telling the bouncer to go away and leave him alone. “He became abusive towards me. They [the security] started walking towards me and shouting abuse, and then I took the gun out,” said Cunniffe who then claimed that he went to Kirwin’s Lane, rolled a cigarette, and waited for the gardai because “I was known” and “I knew the way I was going to be treated”. He then claimed that at the Garda station he wanted the jacket because the cell was cold, that seven or eight gardai kicked and punched him resulting in broken fingers, and that pepper spray was put down his mouth.
“Are you telling me that the gardai here today are telling lies? You had your hands behind your back and wouldn’t release the jacket,” Inspector Sean Glynn put it to Cunniffe who then further claimed that he hasn’t been able to make a complaint against the gardai as he only received the proper forms recently while serving another sentence.
However, Cunniffe’s evidence did not hold much sway with Judge McCarthy who convicted him of engaging in threatening and abusive behaviour and for obstruction. He was then told that Cunniffe has 37 previous convictions, the most recent being a nine month sentence imposed in January of this year for sending indencent messages by telephone and another sentence imposed in November 2012 for criminal damage, assault, and failure to appear in court. The court was then told that Cunniffe is serving a total of 21 months in jail with a release date of February 2014.
For the possession of the imitation firearm Cunniffe was sentenced to nine months in jail, with a further four months, to run consecutive, for obstruction, while the remaining charge was taken into consideration. The sentence was backdated to January 18, 2013. Leave to appeal was granted.