By Jessica Magee
An uncle and nephew have avoided jail terms for threatening to kill a man after he failed to supply them with luxury Canada Goose jackets for which they had paid deposits.
Aaron Cunningham (20) of Cruise Park Drive, Tyrrelstown, Dublin 15 pleaded guilty to four counts of threatening to kill or cause harm and threatening to damage property on dates between February 1 and 7, 2021.
His uncle John Cunningham (38) of Drumheath Avenue, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15, admitted to five counts of threatening to kill or cause serious harm to the same man on dates between January 7 and February 1, 2021.
A sentence hearing at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that the threats were issued in person and using voicemail recordings, text messages and Snapchat voice messages.
Today Judge Pauline Codd sentenced John Cunningham to five years in prison which she suspended in full on strict conditions including that he engage with the Probation Service for two years.
She sentenced Aaron Cunningham to four years in prison which she also suspended in full on strict conditions.
Judge Codd said the threats issued were similar to threats that would be “often meted out to people who owe money for drugs”.
She acknowledged that Aaron Cunningham had no previous convictions and that he had a difficult childhood, having witnessed the murder of his father.
She accepted that the men had expressed remorse for their involvement.
Garda Conor Newman told Emmet Nolan BL, prosecuting, at an earlier sentence hearing, that the injured party began buying clothes from a website in September 2019 in order to sell to people in his locality in Blanchardstown.
This man would obtain stock by collecting deposits to buy the clothes, including high-value Canada Goose jackets, and promote his business through the social media app Snapchat.
In November 2019 he arranged to meet Aaron Cunningham, who gave him €450 by way of deposit for three Canada Goose jackets.
The jackets were duly delivered and about a year later, Aaron contacted the man again looking for more jackets.
Aaron invited the injured party to his house in November 2020 where they also met John Cunningham, who wanted to order a large number of clothes as it was coming up to Christmas.
The court heard that the two Cunninghams between them handed over a total of €4,300 in cash to the victim, who ordered further stock from his supplier.
However, the clothes didn’t arrive and the injured party told the Cunninghams they had been delayed by Covid.
Gda Newman said the exchanges were initially friendly but became more threatening and John Cunningham began to send angry voice mails and texts to the injured party.
On January 7, 2021, John Cunningham sent a message saying, “I’m going to go up to that gaff and burn it down. Get that money or your ma and da is paying for it, ya little black c***t.”
The two accused called to the injured party’s house initially looking for the sum of €7,000 but lowering this to €6,000.
The victim’s uncle paid €1,700 over to John Cunningham. On January 15, both accused again called to the victim’s home and his mother paid €200.
The Cunninghams gave the injured party a further four weeks to pay the bill.
That night, John Cunningham sent a voicemail to the victim saying, “if you don’t have €2,000 for me tomorrow, I’m going to shoot you in the head.”
On February 2, the injured party got a voice message via Snapchat from Aaron Cunningham saying, “if you don’t have that money by tomorrow I will smash your uncle’s face, and I’m coming down with people, and see that gaff, it’s going to be smashed up. I swear if you don’t have that money, you will get it.”
The victim complained to gardaí who arrested both Cunninghams after tracing one of the phone numbers used to a number printed on the side of John Cunningham’s van.
Aaron Cunningham made full admissions and told gardaí he had acted out of anger.
“I have a hot head, I said that in rage. I owed the money that he owed me. He’s not only dealing with me. I swear on my father’s grave I didn’t follow through on the threats, I just wanted to scare him,” he said.
The mother of the injured party made a short victim impact statement which was read out in court on her behalf, saying she had not been at peace since the threats were made and she was scared of noises in her house and of her son going out.
Aaron Cunningham has no previous convictions, while John Cunningham has 19 previous, mostly for minor offences, including possession of drugs for sale or supply.
John Fitzgerald SC, defending Aaron Cunningham, said his client had sent a letter to the court apologising for his behaviour and expressing regret. Mr Fitzgerald said Aaron’s childhood had been characterised by stress and anxiety after his father was murdered while in bed with him when he was aged three.
The court heard Aaron has a two-year-old child with his partner and works for a heating company who also wrote a letter to the court describing him as a loyal and valuable team member with a great work ethic.
Fiona Murphy SC, defending John Cunningham, said her client has worked full-time for ten to 15 years and was a hard-working married man with two children. Her client accepts that his behaviour was appalling, said Ms Murphy.