By Declan Brennan
A man has been acquitted of recklessly firing a shotgun into his cousin’s home leaving the man’s dog fatally wounded.
David Ward (36) of The Beeches, Clonshaugh Woods, Clonshaugh, Coolock had pleaded not guilty of two counts, unlawful possession of a firearm and reckless discharge of a firearm, at Belcamp lane, Dublin 17, on September 17, 2016.
His trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard evidence that at around two o’clock that night, somebody fired shots into the back of the home of John Ward.
One of these shots wounded one of the complainant’s three dogs and this dog later died.
Mr Ward’s defence lawyer Keith Spencer BL told the jury that there was no doubt that shots were fired on the night, but that his client was not involved.
On day two of the trial today, Judge Elma Sheahan discharged the jury after directing it to acquit Mr Ward of both charges.
The direction followed an application by Mr Spencer who submitted that the failure by gardaí to secure CCTV footage which could corroborate his client’s alibi meant he could not get a fair trial.
Judge Sheahan noted that due to operational reasons there was a delay in garda interviewing the defendant.
He was interviewed eight weeks after the shooting incident and told gardaí that he was at home all night.
Gardai had already secured CCTV footage from his apartment block for the hours around the shooting incident, but not covering the hours the defendant said he had come home and left.
When investigators went back to secure this extra footage they found the footage was overwritten automatically after 28 days.
Judge Sheahan noted that the garda evidence given in court was fair, honest and in no way misleading and said investigators had sought to preserve any relevant evidence as it became relevant.
She noted the defence submissions that the testimony of the complainant contained so many inconsistencies that it would be unfair to leave it to a jury.
Judge Sheahan said that the cumulative strength of the defence arguments, which included the fact that there was no ballistics expert for the prosecution, gave rise to the possibility of the real possibility of an unfair trial.
The defendant’s cousin John Ward gave evidence that days before the shooting the defendant came to his home to complain about children playing “nick nacks” on his front door.
Mr Ward said that the defendant was giving out to his wife and he came out and picked up a bar.
He said the defendant picked up a brick and they “had a few words” and “a small altercation” which lasted a few seconds.
He claimed that the defendant said he would shoot out his windows.
Mr Spencer put it to the witness that he was making this up and said “you are willing to lie and adapt whatever knowledge you have to implicate my client”.
The witness denied this and said the accused did make these threats.
The witness said that some nights later, he was in his sitting room and heard a bang.
He said he looked out the back and saw “sparks hitting the back door” and saw the defendant standing on the back wall.
“I looked at him and the glass in front of me shattered and I hit the floor,” he said.
He said he then got up and said “David, you’re dead”.
He said that’s when a fourth shot was fired.
Asked if he could see the gun he told Derek Cooney BL, prosecuting, that “it was a full-length shotgun”.
He said one of his three dogs was shot during the incident and said the accused did that.
“He murdered the dog. He hit the dog in the back of the head,” he said.
The jury saw that in making a statement to gardaí, garda asked the witness if he saw the gun.
The witness replied “it had to be a gun” and said he saw the blast.
Under cross-examination, the witness agreed with Mr Spencer that he was previously convicted for the sale and supply of drugs, but he has never repeated that offending.
He said he never got into disputes over the sale or supply of drugs and had no association with paramilitary organisations.