In November, 35-year-old Darren Gleeson pleaded guilty to membership of an unlawful organization (read: the Irish Republican Army). In early 2017, Gleeson purchased two grenades on the darknet that law enforcement intercepted and replaced with inert replicas. Months after the controlled delivery and arrest, a three-judge court sentenced the man to three years and six months in prison.
In May 2017, the Special Detective Unit opened an investigation in the Dublin area in connection with IRA activity. Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, the presiding judge, sat with Judge Sinead Ní Chúlacháin and Judge Cormac Dunne in the courtroom. Ms Kennedy read aloud the details of the case and circumstances surrounding Gleeson’s arrest and sentencing. She said that the Special Detective Unit had based the investigation on information they had “received.” The information led the Unit to believe that the IRA had planned for a suspect—later identified as Gleeson—to receive shipments of explosives.
Detective Superintendent Michael Gibbons said that the Special Detective Unit had learned that two entities on the darknet had communicated about purchasing explosives. One of the two entities operated under the username “guilleoteen.” According to Gibbons, guilleoteen wanted grenades at the time of the communication in question. The user had also expressed that he intended to make routine purchases of grenades. He started off with a purchase of two grenades. He paid in Bitcoin and requested that the vendor ship the grenades to a “Darren Kinsella.”
On May 18, the Special Detective Unit arranged for an interception of the package. Authorities successfully pulled the grenades from the mail stream and subsequently pulled both grenades out of the package. They replaced the grenades with non-functioning replicas and prepared a controlled delivery. The Gardaí arranged the controlled delivery for the same day.
The shipping company DHL handled the package delivery and received the defendant’s signature for the grenades. He signed “Darren Kinsella.” The Emergency Response Unit, only minutes after the delivery, knocked at the front door. Gleeson opened the door with a knife. Gibbons said that the man had used the knife to open the packages and the Unit had caught him as he opened the package. (i.e., Gleeson meant no harm by opening the door with a knife in his hand.)
They arrested him on the spot and took him to Finglas Garda Station. Law enforcement officers questioned Gleeson on five separate occasions at the Garda Station but reported that Gleeson responded to very few questions and “generally” ignored them. They determined that Gleeson played a very minor role in the IRA’s actions: he simply received the package. However, Justice Kennedy pointed out, Gleeson had already committed a significant number of crimes. His list of priors included burglary and robbery. The priors would weigh against leniency in sentencing. To Gleeson’s advantage, Justice Kennedy recognized that Gleeson responded appropriately when authorities arrested him and cooperated in the making of the plea agreement.
Membership in an unlawful organization carries a maximum penalty of eight years in prison. The judges agreed on a sentence of three years and six months.