A Circuit Court judge has called for urgent changes to the law to prevent the sale of mobile phones without the need to produce a form of ID.
Judge Keenan Johnson said the ability of people to walk into shops and buy phones without any record kept of who was purchasing them was facilitating crime.
The judge said he had no doubt that laws preventing the sale of such phones would reduce crime and make life more difficult for criminals.
Judge Johnson made his remarks at Tullamore Circuit Criminal Court as he handed down a three-year suspended sentence to a Latvian national, Valerijs Vins (30). Vins was found in possession of a loaded semi-automatic pistol and 18 rounds of ammunition when his car was stopped by gardaí near the toll plaza on the M7 outside Portlaoise on February 25, 2016.
Vins, of School Lane, Dunleer, Co Louth, had pleaded guilty to two charges of possessing the weapon and ammunition under the Firearms Act.
Detective Garda Karen Sourke told the court that the Glock pistol was found in a bag in the boot when the accused’s vehicle was stopped after gardaí had mounted a covert surveillance operation following a tip-off.
Det Garda Sourke said Vins originally claimed he had travelled from his home to Limerick to inspect a second-hand car he wanted to buy, but later admitted the purpose of the visit was to collect a package from an unknown individual.
He explained he was under pressure to collect the package as he owed a drug debt of €20,000 to a criminal gang.
Vins stated €10,000 would be wiped off the amount he owed if he carried out the task.
While gardaí were able to trace the phone number used to give Vins instructions to collect the firearm, Det Garda Sourke said it could not be linked to a registered owner.
Judge Johnson said he could not understand why people were still able to buy unregistered pre-paid phones.
Imposing a three-year jail sentence on Vins, suspended for 10 years, the judge also ordered him to carry out 240 hours of community service.