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Grandfather sentenced to five years in jail over Belfast paramilitary shooting

By Ashleigh McDonald

Published 28/11/2016

O’Neill’s 10-year sentence will be five in jail followed by five on licence.
O’Neill’s 10-year sentence will be five in jail followed by five on licence.

A 41-year-old grandfather who took part in a dissident republican shooting in the Ardoyne area of Belfast was handed a 10-year sentence, half of which is to be served in jail.

Patrick Joseph O'Neill, of no fixed abode, was informed by Judge Patrick Kinney that he will serve five years in prison with a further five years on licence upon his release for the "extremely serious" gun attack.

O'Neill was one of three masked men who forced their way into the Brompton Park home of their victim in November 2010. Their target was shot several times in the legs and groin, and has been left with permanent scarring and in "chronic pain" as a result.

Passing sentence at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Kinney ruled that despite the seriousness of the offences, he didn't consider O'Neill fell into the category of presenting a danger to the public.

Judge Kinney also revealed that it has never been established which of the three men pulled the trigger that night.

The court heard the father of six and grandfather of three had a limited criminal record and had not been associated with any similar offending since the November 2010 gun attack, which was later claimed as a punishment shooting by Oglaigh na hEireann.

At least five shots were fired and a Crime Scene Investigator seized two spent bullet heads and five spent cases. They were fired from a Glock 17 pistol which stolen during a burglary at a policeman's house over four years earlier in 2006.

Judge Kinney said the incident occurred in a "paramilitary setting", adding: "Whilst there is no evidence he (O'Neill) is a member of any illegal organisation, I am satisfied his offending on the evening in question assisted the aims an illegal organisation."

A previous hearing was told that on the evening of November 15, 2010 three masked men forced their way into their victim's home before opening fire.

The victim's mother tried to defend both her and her son by arming herself with the knives, before she too was threatened with being shot. A DNA sample was later recovered from one of the knives - a brown-handled kitchen knife - and five years after the shooting O'Neill was linked to the gun attack.

When arrested last year for a totally unrelated domestic offence, DNA from O'Neill was found to match that recovered from the knife.

O'Neill subsequently pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm with intent, and unlawfully and maliciously causing grievous bodily harm, on the grounds of joint enterprise.

Judge Kinney said that whilst he accepted there was no evidence to suggest O'Neill was the gunman, he would nonetheless have been "fully aware" both of the intent of the masked men and that a gun would be used.

As he was being led away by prison staff after being handed a 10-year sentence, O'Neill gave the thumbs up to family and friends in the public gallery.

In response to the sentencing the PSNI issued a statement.

Detective Inspector Andy Workman, from Serious Crime Branch, said: “As a result of forensic evidence which became available to us earlier this year, we were able to arrest and charge Patrick Joseph O’Neill.

“The victim sustained serious injuries as a result of this attack.

"It was an example of nameless and faceless individuals using a paramilitary flag of convenience, in this case Oglaigh na hEireann, to inflict life-changing harm on someone without any reference to a judge, jury or the normal processes of the criminal justice system.

“This is not the way to deal with allegations of criminality in a civilised society in the 21st century. Police will continue to robustly investigate all such paramilitary style shootings and assaults. We would encourage victims, their families and communities to work with us so that such barbaric activity is shunned and those involved are put before the courts.”

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