A man who appeared at Ballyshannon court said he bought a garda stab vest at a Fermanagh market
A man who appeared in court charged with handling a stolen garda stab vest claimed he bought it for protection because he had previously been shot.
34-year-old Aaron Neilis of 133 Classiebawn Drive, Cartron, Sligo was before Ballyshannon District Court on Friday. He pleaded guilty to a charge of handling a stolen garda stab vest knowing that it was stolen or reckless as to whether it was stolen.
Judge Kevin Kilrane did not impose a conviction as he said the case was at the lower end of the scale. He instead ordered Neilis to make a charitable donation.
Inspector Denis Joyce told the court that the vest was found at the defendant’s home at 133 Classiebawn Drive, Cartron on August 4, 2017. It was discovered during a search of the property.
The inspector explained that the vest serial number was subsequently checked in the garda system. It emerged that it had been allocated to a member stationed in north Donegal and had been recorded as lost.
Defence solicitor Tom McSharry said that although his client was pleading guilty, there were mitigating factors.
“There was an explanation given that he bought it at a market in Fermanagh 17 months earlier,” said Mr McSharry. “There were no garda markings on the vest.
"Mr Neilis was shot in 2014. He was with another man who was shot dead. In the interest of his own self preservation he took measures to protect himself.”
The solicitor said his client was a father who had settled himself and now had a degree of stability in his life. The court heard that he had one previous conviction for criminal damage in 2010.
Judge Kilrane said it was an unusual case in that the state could not prove that the vest was stolen. This meant that the defendant could not be convicted for handling stolen goods in the normal way.
“The question is, was he reckless in handling stolen goods?” said the judge. “As a lay person one could feel that garda vests aren’t just for sale on the street. If garda stab vests are past their sell-by date they are disposed of. That just about puts him over the line in being reckless as to handling stolen goods.”
The judge acknowledged the defendant’s guilty plea. Rather than impose a conviction, he ordered Neilis to make a contribution of €400 to the garda benevolent fund.
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