A father-of-two who stored three guns at his west Belfast home for an organised crime gang was handed a five-year sentence on Tuesday.
Appearing at the city’s Crown Court via videolink from Maghaberry jail, Gerard Porter was told his sentence would be split between custody and licence.
The 52-year-old admitted eight offences arising from a May 2018 search of his Cluain Mor Drive home that uncovered two sawn-off shotguns and a handgun.
Porter was sentenced for three counts of possessing a firearm without a certificate, three counts of possessing the same weapons in suspicious circumstances, receiving stolen goods and obstructing police.
When police arrived at his home, an intoxicated Porter frustrated officers’ attempts to search it and was arrested.
A sawn-off shotgun wrapped in brown tape was found in a pigeon loft in the garden, a second shotgun in a hot press and the handgun in a bedroom.
Judge Stephen Fowler QC said one of the shotguns was ready to use and had been stolen during a burglary in September 2016.
When Porter was interviewed by police, he said two men he did not know had called at his house and asked him to store items.
The defendant admitted he knew the items were guns and said the pair had told him “someone would be in touch to collect them”.
He told police he assumed part of an £8,000 drug debt would be paid off if he did what he was told.
Porter also claimed he was afraid what would happen to his family if he refused.
Judge Fowler said the PSNI did not believe the defendant’s account.
While police accepted there may have been a drug debt, Porter “was not taken by surprise” when officers arrived to search his home. He also refused to give the names of the two men.
“Police believe the firearms were being stored for an organised crime gang operating in Belfast”, Judge Fowler said.
He added that while there was an element of duress, Porter was motivated by paying off a debt “rather than fear of any harm”.
Judge Fowler noted the defendant had a history of alcohol and drug abuse and had mental and physical problems. Also noted were his attempts to tackle his addictions while on remand.
As he imposed the five-year sentence, the judge said he accepted Porter never intended to use the weapons and was storing them under “some degree of pressure”.