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Man who accidentally shot himself during ‘merciless’ attack on defenceless victim jailed

A man who shot himself in the abdomen during a family feud and hijacked a car in Dundalk has been handed a five year sentence today.

John Ward, 39, of no fixed abode according to the court papers but previously of Bessbrook, appeared before Newry Crown Court, via videolink from Maghaberry, for sentencing.

Ward, who is originally from Newry, had pleaded guilty on re-arraignment in March of this year to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, namely a shotgun, wounding and hijacking.

The Court heard that the first set of offences occurred on October 15, 2019, which were in relation to an “ongoing feud” between two families. The injured party in relation to the wounding charge was attacked by a number of men outside his family home in Forkhill.

Four males had exited a vehicle, one of which was the defendant, who was armed with a loaded shotgun. The injured party attempted to run but he was chased and struck on the head with the butt of the shotgun.

It was heard that the defendant was shouting that “he was going to shoot him”.

The shotgun was accidentally discharged during the incident, which wounded the defendant, causing him to drop the gun and run back to the car, leaving the injured party with a wound to the back of his head, which required seven staples.

Police subsequently received a phone call from Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry saying that the defendant had been left at the hospital with a “gunshot wound to the abdomen”, which required surgery.

The second incident occurred on May 17 2020, when a woman driving in Dundalk was rear-ended by a black Audi at a junction. When she exited the vehicle to inspect the damage, the defendant got out of his car and entered her vehicle.

She tried to stop the hijacking and engaged in a physical struggle, being “dragged along the ground” at one stage, before the defendant drove off in the vehicle.

The stolen vehicle, which had false plates, was recovered on May 19.

Police attended the defendant’s temporary bail address where they located a vehicle key in the garden. They subsequently searched his permanent bail address where they located the black Audi, involved in the hijacking, nearby and seized a distinctive jacket, which was identical to one worn by the hijacker.

During the interview, Ward declined to answer most questions and said he had been “set up”.

In the course of the sentence hearing, the probation report outlined that Ward had a “nomadic lifestyle” and “has had no regular employment record and sporadically working during the course of his adult life.”

He also acknowledged an addiction to alcohol and drugs.

In relation to the first incident, His Honour Judge Ramsey QC said: “The short extract of footage shows a brutal merciless attack upon a defenceless man which the accused, together with two others, enthusiastically participated in.

“Much can be made of the fact that a firearm was discharged and the consequences were cataclysmic for the accused. However, it was clear that he was very much the author of his own misfortune.

“After the second incident, the injured party said that walking or any physical activity became painful.

“The daily activities she took for granted suddenly became very difficult.”

He also noted a comment from the prosecution that the defendant had a relevant record for violence and that the second offence was committed whilst he had been on bail.

Judge Ramsey commented: “While you’re entitled to credit for your plea of guilty, these offences were committed against defenceless victims.

“This was aggravated by the fact that the second incident took place a time when you were on bail because you were involved in the first incident.

“I’ve been greatly assisted by the CCTV footage of both incidents, which graphically captures the brutality of both incidents and your enthusiastic participation in them.

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words and never has that been truer than in this case,” he added.

In sentencing, he imposed a period of five years for the firearm charge, two years for the wounding charge and three years for the hijacking charge.

All sentences were to run concurrently, leaving a total sentence of five years imprisonment.

A restraining order was also requested by the Prosecution in relation to the injured party in the shotgun incident, which was granted for three years.

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