A criminal who attacked a member of a rival drug gang with a machete near Finglas Garda station in “bright daylight” has been given a three-year sentence.
Martin Cunningham (27) has been in prison since April 2019 after his bail was revoked by the High Court and has therefore served more than three years.
Cunningham pleaded guilty last November to producing a machete in an assault on Kenneth Fitzsimons. The court heard the assault was one of more than 70 incidents, including arson and firearms offences, stemming from a feud between criminal gangs in Blanchardstown and Finglas.
At a sentencing hearing last week, a garda testified that Fitzsimons suffered deep injuries to his neck, arms, legs and torso and that lacerations to his torso exposed his ribs on both sides. He needed four liters of blood during emergency treatment before being sent to surgery.
Judge Eileen Creedon said on Monday the maximum sentence available for both counts was five years. She said the attack appears to be linked to an ongoing feud and that Cunningham knew where Fitzsimons would be and armed himself with a machete before attacking the victim in “bright daylight”.
She said Cunningham will have to deal with his anger management issues and remains at risk of violent recidivism.
The judge placed this offense at the highest end for such assaults and said it warranted an aggregate sentence of five years.
After considering mitigating factors, including Cunningham’s expressions of remorse and his early guilty plea, she reduced the sentence to four years and then suspended the final 12 months for two years after his release.
During these two years, Cunningham will have to undergo regular urinalysis and participate in various programs, as directed by the probation services.
Cunningham of Warrenstown Drive, Mulhuddart was originally charged with the attempted murder of Kenneth Fitzsimons (41) at Liam Mellows Road, Finglas, Dublin 11 on April 10, 2019, but the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) agreed to dropping the attempted murder charge when Cunningham pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm and producing a machete.
A jury that had been sworn in to hear Cunningham’s trial was later told that their services were no longer needed. They had heard that Cunningham was an apprentice electrician who worked at Ardmore Studios in Co Wicklow.
At a sentencing hearing earlier this month, Detective Sergeant Damien Mangan told Desmond Dockery SC, for the DPP, that the assault was one of more than 70 incidents related to a ongoing feud between two drug gangs in Finglas and Blanchardstown.
“Like a crazy”
In this case, Fitzsimons was standing at a bus stop near Finglas Garda station when he was approached by the defendant, who was wearing tracksuit bottoms and a hoodie. In a statement given to gardaí shortly after the assault, Fitzsimons said he saw Cunningham jogging and then sprinting towards him with a “big ass machete” with an orange handle.
Fitzsimons told Gardaí he recognized Cunningham and heard him say something like, “Kenneth, I’m going to cut you up.”
Fitzsimons described being knocked to the ground where he was struck repeatedly with the machete. He told gardaí: “He swung at me wildly, like crazy. I could see it in his eyes. I think he was coked.”
Fitzsimons broke free and ran to Finglas Garda station where he bled on the floor in the public area before a nearby ambulance crew stabilized him and took him to Blanchardstown Hospital. A medical report given to the court describes the victim’s injuries, including lacerations and deep wounds to the neck, arms, legs and torso.
Wounds on either side of his torso exposed his ribs and he took four liters of blood before he was transferred to an operating room. Detective Sergeant Mangan said Fitzsimons recovered from his injuries without further complications. The entire incident was captured on CCTV which was shown in court.
Gardaí found the machete in a nearby garden, but forensic scientists could not find fingerprints or DNA linking it to Cunningham. When Cunningham was arrested, he was held at Finglas Garda station and questioned five times, but answered all questions “without comment”.
Refusal to testify
The detective admitted that the prosecution case rested entirely on the testimony of the victim who, before Cunningham was brought to trial, told gardaí that he wished to withdraw his complaint and would not testify at trial.
He said that everything he said to gardaí was due to the effect of the drug which he said was having a bad impact on his memory. The court also heard that Fitzsimons was serving a five-and-a-half-year sentence for possession of a firearm.
Cunningham, the court heard, has previous convictions for driving without insurance and drug possession. He was out on bail when he attacked Fitzsimons and while in remand for the assault he was fined for driving offences. Cunningham was also found guilty of assault and threatening while in custody.
Detective Sergeant Mangan said the assault on Fitzsimons was one of more than 70 incidents stemming from a feud between two rival drug gangs in Blanchardstown and Finglas that is still ongoing. Both groups committed assaults, committed Molotov cocktails and fired shots at the homes of their rivals. The firearms offense for which Fitzsimons was convicted stems from the feud.
The detective agreed with Mr Bowman, for the defence, that shots were fired at Cunningham’s house and the windows slammed into place with hammers. He further agreed that Cunningham was worried about his autistic younger brother and was in the house when these attacks happened.
He also agreed that Fitzsimons told gardaí he would tell the court that everything in his statement was a ‘pack of lies’ and when told that Cunningham was going to plead guilty, he said: ‘It’s a bigger fool if he does.” He said he would “walk” if he didn’t say anything.
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Cunningham knew what Fitzsimons said before he pleaded guilty, Sgt Mangan said, and he agreed the prosecution was “entirely contingent” on Fitzsimon’s evidence.
In court submissions, Mr Bowman said his client had had substance abuse and anger issues. He fully admits he shouldn’t have taken the law into his own hands, but, the lawyer said, his actions were ’emotional rather than calculated’ and resulted from ‘distress and concern for his immediate family “.
He said Cunningham had a difficult upbringing, had mental health issues and started using cannabis, cocaine and alcohol at a young age. On the day of the assault, he had consumed all three.
He worked through his drug issues while in custody since 2019, the attorney said, and after missing important family events now wants to be a part of his child’s life.