The getaway driver in a bid by an organised crime gang to murder Lee Boylan in west Dublin has been jailed for ten years.
Passing sentence on Friday, Mr Justice Michael White said this was "a well-planned attack" with a sophisticated degree of surveillance and was carried out "at the behest of a criminal organisation", which believed that Mr Boylan had been involved in a previous attack.
The judge said Mr Boylan was shot three times at close range and his life was saved due to a "fortuitous fluke" when his gunshot wounds formed an abnormal connection between an artery and a vein that stopped him from bleeding out. Although Mr Boylan did not cooperate with the investigation it was likely he would have life-long injuries, he added.
Referring to the getaway driver Alan Graham, the judge said he could not have been "more proximate" to the event other than the gunman, who was a senior member or one of the leaders of this criminal organisation. There was also a strong possibility that the accused had become involved in the attack as he owed a drug debt, he said.
Graham (49), of Davin Gardens, Cahirdavin, Limerick pleaded guilty last January to having knowledge of the existence of a criminal organisation and participating in activities with the intention of facilitating the commission by the criminal organisation of the offence of attempted murder of Mr Boylan (26) or being reckless as to same at Blakestown Road, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15 on March 6, 2019.
The maximum penalty for the offence is 15 years in prison.
The Central Criminal Court was told during last month's sentence hearing that Mr Boylan, the victim of the murder bid by the criminal organisation, sustained three gunshot wounds to his shoulder and neck as he sat in his van in broad daylight in a highly populated area in west Dublin.
Evidence was given that it was "a miraculous piece of medical luck" that the then 24-year-old survived and he would have bled to death if his carotid artery and jugular vein had not joined in a "arteriovenous fistula", an abnormal connection between an artery and a vein that stopped the bleeding.
Mr Boylan was shot and left with "life-changing injuries" because an organised criminal gang "perceived" he had been involved in the murder of a man in December 2018. The three bullets could not be removed from the victim and remain in his body.
The father, whose three-year-old child was supposed to be with him in his van that day, asked the gardai in the ambulance on the way to the hospital not to let him die.
The detective told the court that this was a "sophisticated stakeout" as part of the attempt on Mr Boylan's life involving several others, four cars, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
Before delivering the sentence on Friday, Mr Justice White said that Graham was the driver of the car which carried the gunman that shot Mr Boylan three times at close range and caused him life-threatening injuries.
The aggravating factors in the case was the accused's proximity to the crime and his previous convictions.
Graham has 20 previous convictions in this jurisdiction, mainly for drug related offences and one Canadian conviction for selling stolen passports. The accused was heavily involved in the drug scene in 2010 and received a 10-year sentence in 2012 for possessing cocaine for sale and supply after being caught with €750,000 worth of cocaine and €200,000 in cash. He was released from prison in May 2018, about ten months before this incident.
The judge said that the main mitigating factors were Graham's early guilty plea, his personal circumstances and the strong possibility that he was under pressure to become involved in this attack as he owed a drug debt.
The defendant's sentence hearing was told that he was still beholden to a debt as a result of the seizure of cocaine in 2010 and a previous bail hearing heard that he would "be forced to commit other serious crimes to repay" the debts upon his release from prison.
Mr Justice White set the headline sentence at 14 years imprisonment.
He sentenced Graham to 11 years imprisonment with the final year suspended, backdated to June 17, 2019 when he went into custody.
Prosecution counsel Pauline Walley SC said the State wished to enter a "nolle prosequi" - a decision not to proceed with the case - on a charge of attempted murder.
At Graham's sentence hearing last month, Detective Sergeant Shane McCartan detailed the background to the shooting. He told prosecution counsel Ms Walley that Graham was driving a BMW on the day, which was carrying the gunman who had shot Mr Boylan.
Det Sgt McCartan said that gardai first became aware of events shortly after 5pm on the afternoon of March 6. Gardai received 999 calls indicating that a number of gunshots had been fired through a driver's side window of a car that was parked at a junction on a busy street in Mulhuddart, close to Blanchardstown Shopping Centre.
The witness said that Mr Boylan was in a "very bad way" and sustained very serious life-threatening and life-changing injuries after being shot three times in the neck and shoulder in a highly populated area with high levels of traffic.
Mr Boylan suffered a traumatic "arteriovenous fistula" and there was a serious penetrating injury to his right carotid artery and jugular vein. The fistula created a blockage which prevented him from bleeding out and created an abnormal connection between the artery and vein. Det Sgt McCartan said it was a "miraculous piece of medical luck" that a fistula was created as a result of the penetrating wounds as otherwise he would have instantly bled to death at the scene.
The victim was brought to Connolly Hospital before he was later transferred to Beaumont Hospital, where a stent was placed in his neck which saved his life.
Several gardai and ambulance crew attended the scene and Mr Boylan was removed from his van. CPR was performed on him on the road before he was transferred by ambulance to Connolly Hospital, where he expressed his fear of dying to a number of garda in the ambulance and asked them not to let him die.
The detective described the incident as a "sophisticated stakeout" of a car wash and said Mr Boylan had brought his van to be cleaned at 2pm after his dog had got sick in it. Mr Boylan returned to collect his van around 5pm that evening.
Gardai learned that a gunman called "Mr D" was the front seat passenger in the BMW, which was driven by Graham on the day and the car had been in the vicinity of the car wash for some time prior to the actual shooting. The BMW remained in close proximity to the car wash, which was within view of Mr Boylan's van, with the aim of being able to observe his vehicle leaving the carwash.
Ms Walley said that two other vehicles, a red Audi and a black Volkswagen Golf, were in a "tick tack" operation with the BMW and the three cars had been in contact with each other for a number of hours prior to the shooting. The Volkswagen Golf was parked adjacent to where the shooting occurred and picked up the shooter after the incident.
The BMW was driven a short distance away to Saddlers estate in Mulhuddart following the shooting, where Graham burnt out the car. The court heard that the red Audi was the car associated with "Mr D".
The detective said that the movements of these cars had attracted the attention of people residing in Saddlers estate prior to the shooting and some calls had been made to gardai concerning the drivers of these vehicles, who were seen acting in a suspicious manner.
The court heard this was an attack undertaken by an organised criminal gang, which perceived Mr Boylan to have been involved in the murder of a man in December 2018. "As a result of the perception of the organised crime gang of the alleged role of Mr Boylan, garda intelligence is that this was carried out in retaliation or a revenge attack," indicated the witness.
Mr Boylan's three-year-old son would normally travel in the van with him but he had a fall that day and was not in his vehicle, said the detective.
The victim suffered a severe neurological injury and was admitted to the National Rehabilitation Hospital from July 9 until August 30, 2019, when he "quite suddenly" discharged himself. The court heard he has significant disabilities including reduced strength and range of movements in both arms and weakness in both legs.
The bullets which penetrated Mr Boylan were not able to be retrieved for medical reasons and remain in his body.
Ms Walley said that Mr Boylan was either in hospital, undergoing surgery or rehabilitation from the day of the shooting until August 30, 2019. Mr Boylan refused to cooperate with the garda investigation or make a victim impact statement, despite being approached by gardai a number of times. The evidence in relation to the injuries sustained came from medics and not from Mr Boylan himself, said the detective.
Extensive CCTV footage of the shooting was retrieved by gardai and it captured the gunman firing a number of shots before running into a nearby estate. Dash-cam footage also showed the facial image of Graham and there were a number of accounts given by eye witness statements. It is believed that the gunman retrieved the weapon from a nearby hedge prior to Mr Boylan's van leaving the car wash, said the detective. There was also evidence depicting Graham emerging from Saddler's estate after the BMW was burned.
A taxi driver, who picked up Graham from the site of the burning vehicle and brought him to the Cardiff Inn pub in Finglas, noted the smell of smoke coming from him. Also, CCTV footage from inside the pub showed Graham having a drink with the gunman, "Mr D", after the shooting and shaking hands.
The detective said that Graham had known "Mr D" from when the accused was serving a long sentence for drugs in prison and a friendship had developed between the two men.
The witness said "Mr D" had travelled to Limerick to bring Graham to Dublin around February 28 and had kept the accused in his house with his mother for a number of days in Ballymun. On the day of the shooting, Graham was transported by "Mr D" to Finglas in a red Audi before they both changed vehicles and got into a BMW, which was used in the shooting and burned out afterwards. "After the shooting, Mr D was transported away in a black Volkswagen Golf and then the Red Audi comes back into play after 5.30pm, driven by Mr D, who entered the pub and shook hands with Graham," said the detective.
Det Sgt McCartan said "Mr D" is a central figure in a criminal gang and was "the mastermind" behind the shooting.
Graham is well known to gardai for drug offences and his siblings have a history of drug addictions, said the witness.
Graham was arrested in a friend's house in Limerick on June 17, 2019, where three mobile phones were retrieved including an encrypted phone. One of the phones placed him in Dublin on March 6 and caught him travelling to and from Limerick between the end of February and March 13. The detective said a "significant blackout period" was captured on the phones for over five hours on the day of the shooting. The same clothing which Graham wore on the day of the incident were also retrieved including a distinctive pair of runners.
During interviews, Graham accepted he had stayed between two and 10 days in Ballymun and said he had been having trouble in Limerick before a good friend brought him to Dublin. However, the accused denied that he had any role in the attempted murder of Mr Boylan, saying "why would anyone with no local knowledge be asked to do anything like this" and maintained he came to Dublin to buy a car despite being on social welfare. He declined to give access codes to gardai for the encrypted phone.
Under cross-examination, Det Sgt McCartan agreed with defence counsel Michael O'Higgins SC that his client was a drug addict of very long standing. The detective also agreed that Graham was still beholden to a debt as a result of the seizure of cocaine in 2010 and a previous bail hearing heard that he would "be forced to commit other serious crimes to repay" the debts upon his release from prison.
Mr O'Higgins said that mitigating factors were his client’s guilty plea, his remorse and the fact he had been a "a very bad abuser" of drugs for many years. The barrister asked the court to consider that his client was in debt at the time, "living from hand to mouth" and was a particularly vulnerable person due to being under pressure for a drug debt.
Counsel also asked the court to take into account that there is a very difficult regime in prison at present with nearly 22-hour lock-up due to the Covid-19 pandemic. "Prison was never easy and in the present circumstances it is considerably harder than it ever has been," he added.
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