Kinahan cartel hitman jailed for 20 years over attempted murder of Hutch gang associate
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A hitman for the Kinahan cartel has today been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for the attempted murder of Hutch associate James ‘Mago’ Gately.
Caolan Smyth (29), of Cuileann Court, Donore, Co Meath, was handed down the lengthy sentence at the Special Criminal Court this morning.
The non-jury court previously found that he was the gunman who fired five shots into James Gately outside a north Dublin filling station four years ago.
His accomplice Gary McAreavey (53), of Gort Nua, Castlebellingham, Co Louth, was jailed for three years in relation to the burning of the getaway vehicle.
The shooting of Gately, on May 10, 2017 at Clonshaugh Road, was carried out as part of the Hutch/Kinahan feud which has led to 18 murders and dozens of attempted shootings.
Mr Justice Tony Hunt said Caolan Smyth carried out several tasks including the surveillance of the victim in the day before the murder and on the day of the shooting.
Smyth followed James Gately to the location and discharged up to five shots hitting him in the body and head.
Gately had been warned by gardaí that his life was under threat and wore a bullet proof vest which affected four of the shots.
A fifth shot entered his head through the jaw and would have caused fatal injuries if not for the intervention of witnesses and first responders.
Mr Justice Hunt said that the organised and deliberate nature of the crime put it in the more “egregious category” of attempted murder, attracting a sentence from 15 years up to life imprisonment.
The court said Smyth used a serious firearm as part of a criminal conspiracy after carrying out surveillance.
Caolan Smyth, the court found, also demonstrated a proficiency in the use of the weapon striking the target five times.
Mr Justice Hunt said a striking feature of the case was that he fired a pistol on a sunny afternoon in a suburban garage where men, women and children were likely to be present.
He said the accused was clearly a dangerous criminal who associated with, and acted in tandem with criminals of a similar variety, and sentenced him to 20 years imprisonment.
In relation to Gary McAreavey the court said there was insufficient evidence to conclude that he knew Caolan Smyth had committed the specific offence of attempted murder.
However, they said there was a knowledge that there was some other arrestable offence committed serious enough to require the use and careful destruction of a getaway car.
The court heard that McAreavey only bought the petrol used to destroy the getaway car after being contacted by Caolan Smyth as he fled the shooting scene.
Mr Justice Hunt said that his activities, due in large to the excellent garda investigation, did little to actually impede the apprehension of Smyth.
He also said the accused would not part of a larger criminal network.
Taking mitigation into account, he sentenced McAreavey to four years imprisonment with the final year suspended.
Caolan Smyth had denied two charges of attempted murder and possession of a firearm, while McAreavey pleaded not guilty to assisting in burning out the black Lexus used. Both were convicted last month by the three sitting judges.
Gardaí believe ‘Mago’ Gately was targeted on the orders of the Kinahan cartel who hold him responsible for involvement in the 2016 Regency Hotel shooting, a crime for which he has never been charged.
The 34-year-old Hutch gang associate survived a previous attempt on his life when gardaí foiled a cartel plot to murder him in Belfast.
Just over a month after the conspiracy was disrupted Gately was shot up to five times outside the Clonsaugh Road service station on May 10, 2017.
The Special Criminal Court found that Caolan Smyth was the lone gunman who shot Gately as he got out of his Ford Mondeo.
The prosecution case against Smyth relied on CCTV images of his movements that day along with his mobile phone use. Gardaí also positively identified him at the filling station the day before the shooting in a suspected scouting trip.
A contact number retrieved from McAreavey’s phone, saves as ‘Smythser New’, was also used to link Caolan Smyth’s movements with the black Lexus car used by the gunman.
Evidence was given to the court linking Gary McAreavey to the burning of that getaway car later that day.
The prosecution relied on CCTV evidence, showing him buying petrol at a filling station, and also leaving his house after the shooting.
McAreavey then travelled in convoy with Caolan Smyth to the scene of the burn site at Dromiskin, Co Louth.
Two cartridges were found in the wreckage but the firearm was not recovered.
The getaway car, which had previously been in the service of the Pakistan embassy and had diplomatically registered plates, had been captured on camera before the shooting without any passenger present.
The court heard last month that James Gately had given a statement to gardaí and assisted with their investigation.
However, he did not give evidence at the trial and did not wish to make a victim impact statement.
Det Gda Finbarr Fleming, of Santry garda station, said that Caolan Smyth has 36 previous convictions which include burglary, handling stolen property and the unauthorised taking of a vehicle.
His barrister, John Fitzgerald SC, submitted to the court that Smyth grew up in Coolock and that his parents separated when he was young before moving to Louth at the age of 12.
He was an all-Ireland boxing champion at underage level who left school after his Junior Cert and later worked in retail and security.
The non-jury court heard that McAreavey had a previous conviction relating to the reckless discharge of a legally held firearm for which he was sentenced to 80 hours community service.
Det Gda Kevin Rooney, of Santry garda station, accepted that the father-of-two was not involved prior to the commission of the crime.