Northern Ireland

Thomas Rooney and Cathal Kerr jailed for having loaded gun

Two men discovered with a loaded gun have been jailed for three years each.

Thomas Rooney, 23, and Cathal Kerr, 21, were ordered to spend 15 months in jail and 21 months on supervised licence.

The judge said while he had offered the pair an opportunity to explain why they had the loaded .38 revolver, no such explanation had ever been forthcoming.

He told the court in Belfast the fact that the gun was being transported late at night was "suggestive that it was to be used".

Following a Diplock, no-jury trial last February, Judge Kerr had convicted the Belfast men of having the gun in suspicious circumstances.

Knuckleduster

He had heard how police stopped a black Volvo car on 9 March, 2010, on the Stewartstown Road and found the loaded .38 revolver in the rear, passenger-side footwell.

Rooney, of Glasvey Close, was the driver and Kerr, of Gardenmore Road in Dunmurry was sitting behind him in the back seat.

A third man, Paul Shaw, 36, of Oranmore Street, who was sitting on the passenger-side back seat was also arrested at the scene but was found not guilty by the judge.

The court heard that as well as the loaded gun, a search of the car also revealed a working walkie-talkie in the front of the car, a knuckleduster in the driver's door and a baseball bat in the boot.

During police interviews both men denied knowledge of the firearm and while Kerr claimed he had only just got into the car to get a lift, Rooney, whose mother owned the car through a motability scheme, claimed the bat and the knuckleduster had been given to him as a gift by his girlfriend's sister whom he refused to name.

They were linked to the gun however after their DNA profiles were uncovered on it with the court being told "the complex mixture profile obtained from the firearm showed characteristics of Thomas Rooney and Cathal Kerr and that they could not be eliminated as contributors".

The judge said that without explanations from either defendant, he was "left with the inference that the gun was to be used by them or others but that the use fell short of having intent to endanger life or cause serious injury" to any person or property.