Tuesday, 6 Jun 2023

Father and daughter jailed for five years after baby shot in legs

A father and daughter have been jailed for five years for firing the same gun during a family altercation in which a six-month-old baby was shot in the legs.

Charlene (23) and Dan Donovan (49) both pleaded guilty to possessing a shotgun with intent to endanger life and to recklessly discharging a firearm at Parslickstown Gardens, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15, on December 12, 2017.

Dan Donovan, with a former address at Parslickstown Gardens, also pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to threatening to kill or cause serious harm to Michael Collins on the same date.

Detective Garda Michael Parry Jones told the court that Ms Donovan, formerly of Parslickstown Gardens and with an address in Dundalk, Co. Louth, had fired the first shot across the road.

This shot injured a 17-year-old man, the baby in his arms and that infant’s mother. The court heard the injured parties were standing about four meters away.

Dan Donovan then took the gun from his daughter, threatened to “bury” Mr Collins and accidentally discharged the firearm into the ground by his feet.

Det Gda Parry Jones said he arrived on the scene to see two uniformed colleagues trying to separate the two families. He said the 17-year-old was in one house with his t-shirt pulled up and puncture wounds on his abdomen.

The detective told John Berry BL, prosecuting, that he later found out that the baby had been taken to hospital and had surgery to remove shotgun pellets from his legs. He said the baby is awaiting further surgery to have the five remaining pellets removed.

In victim impact reports handed in to court, the child’s mother said her baby can walk but is in constant pain. She said he sometimes wakes up with the pain and she has to massage his feet.

The woman detailed how she has limited movement in her wrist from where a shotgun pellet lodged in her bone. She also received a hip injury and described how she has been shocked and depressed since the incident.

Judge Martin Nolan noted that the baby would have ongoing difficulties with his injuries. He commented that “whatever about the adults, this child was completely blameless”.

Det Gda Parry Jones told Mr Berry that he arrested Dan Donovan at the scene when a sawn-off shotgun was found concealed under debris at the back of his then house.

Witnesses to the incident described how there had been a verbal altercation between the families, before Charlene Donovan was heard saying: “Daddy, take the gun, take the gun.”

The court heard that shots were fired through the Donovans’ kitchen window. He accepted that two men from the rival family were physically imposing, violent and intimidating.

Ms Donovan has no record of offending, while her father has previous convictions for minor road traffic matters.

Jailing both, Judge Nolan said there was a history of dispute between the Donovans and the Collins and that both groups had decided to take the law into their own hands. He said he accepted the Donovans were in fear on the day. He said he was sympathetic to Ms Donovan but she had shot somebody.

On hearing the sentence Ms Donovan broke down in tears and was held tightly by her father. Supporters of the family became upset in court but left quickly afterwards.

Det Gda Parry Jones said Dan Donovan claimed in his garda interview that he had been throwing fireworks at the back of his property. The detective said forensic examination of his trousers revealed that the residue found on them was consistent with a shotgun firing.

He said he arrested Charlene Donovan later in Wicklow, but nothing of evidential value arose from her garda interview.

Det Gda Parry Jones agreed with Dominic McGinn SC, defending Dan Donovan, that his client has no conviction record for a crime this serious.

He further agreed that shortly before this incident, shots were fired through the Donovan’s kitchen window. He accepted that two men from the rival family were physically imposing, violent and intimidating.

The detective agreed with Séamus Clarke SC, defending Charlene Donovan, that the bullet hole in the family’s kitchen window was still present the day of this shooting. He said he wasn’t surprised to hear that a psychological report deemed Charlene Donovan to have very low IQ.

He agreed that gardaí had alerted her to a threat to her wellbeing in March of this year.

The detective agreed with both counsel that father and daughter had entered early guilty pleas.

Mr McGinn submitted to Judge Nolan that his client had genuine remorse for escalating the ongoing family feud. He said Dan Donovan felt guilty for producing the firearm and giving it to his daughter.

Mr McGinn said his client accepted full responsibility for his daughter’s actions. He submitted that the animosity between the families had been slowly escalating in the months prior to this shooting.

He said his client had a young daughter with medical needs and the family had been looking to move to more suitable accommodation when this incident happened.

Mr Clarke submitted to Judge Nolan that Charlene Donovan’s intellectual functioning “is in the particularly low range of ability”. He said she had been traumatised for injuring the baby and became depressed and undernourished as a result.

Counsel submitted that Charlene Donovan was caught in a volatile situation and acted impulsively, as it was difficult for her to think through the consequences of her actions.

Judge Nolan commented that it was “fortunate for everybody that the bulk of the pellets went somewhere else.” He said he knew from experience that “if the middle (of the pellet spray) had hit, you wouldn’t be in this court”.

He accepted that Dan Donovan produced the shotgun out of fear during an “overwrought” situation. He said he had no doubt Charlene Donovan had considerable intellectual difficulties, but added that he was satisfied she knew the consequences of her actions.

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