A Corofin man caught red handed delivering a kilo of cannabis herb valued at €12,000 was sentenced to 18 months in jail at Galway Circuit Criminal Court this week.
The court heard Niall McDonagh had agreed to deliver the drugs into Galway city for a payment of up to €200, that it had been the first time he had been involved in such an activity, and that he would not reveal to gardai the identity of those who had given him the drugs because he had been “in fear”.
Before sentencing Judge Raymond Groarke acknowledged that the 25-year-old was an intelligent, hard-working, man from a decent family, but that he had become greedy when offered “soft money”. He added that sentencing could not be avoided as there must be a deterrent and the judge must support the hundreds who bravely stand up to drug big shots and say ‘no’.
McDonagh with an address at 12 Myles Park, Corofin, Tuam, pleaded guilty to posession of cannabis with the intention to sell or otherwise supply to others at Tuam Road on January 28, 2010.
Garda Noel McNulty gave evidence that McDonagh’s vehicle, a white transit van, had been stopped on the Tuam Road and a search was conducted under the Misuse of Drugs Act. As a result cannabis was seized and McDonagh was arrested and brought to Galway Garda Station where he made a full admission. Garda McNulty said the drugs which were contained in a clear plastic bag had been a kilo of compacted cannabis herb, about three/four square shoe boxes in size, and valued at approximately €12,000. He added that when stopped the drugs had been on clear view on the passenger seat beside McDonagh.
When questioned by gardai McDonagh said he had been short of money, and he had been asked to deliver the drugs to the city centre. Garda McNulty further explained that McDonagh did not reveal from whom he got the drugs, and he accepted this was because McDonagh had been “in fear”. The court further heard that McDonagh had been living in Claregalway at the time of the offence but that he has now moved back to the family home and works as a full-time courier and has no previous convictions.
“He would not be known to us. He had a small cocaine problem and would have smoked cannabis... I have carried out enquiries and he is nowhere involved in the drug trade,” said Garda McNulty.
“How was he involved in this trade?” Asked Judge Groarke to which Garda McNulty replied: “It’s my opinion this would have happened not more than twice, if that at all. He was to get between €100 to €200 for it.”
Defence barrister Geri Silke BL said that her client admitted to gardai that this incident was the first he had been involved in and he pleaded at the earliest opportunity. She said McDonagh, who is now drug free after receiving addiction counselling, had struggled with family difficulties and took the wrong choices but now, helped by the support from his family, has managed to stay away from negative influences and addressed the issues which caused him to offend.
“He knows he made the wrong choices, he is a young man who has tried to get his life back together,” said Ms Silke.
After considering the evidence, Judge Groarke commented that the charge of a controlled drug for sale or supply is “one of the most serious offence known to Irish law” and it can bring with it a term of up to life imprisonment. He explained the reason this offence is treated so seriously is because of the “degree of damage, upheaval, and ruination” drugs cause in people’s lives.
“You were found in posession of controlled drugs to the value of €12,000, if you had a further small piece, a 10th of kilo more, you would face a 10 year sentence minimum... In the most extraordinary of circumstances when your car was stopped the drugs were plainly to be seen... you were caught red handed,” he said. Judge Groarke further noted that unlike other offenders McDonagh did not have the excuse of drug addiction but that he was simply “greedy”. “There was soft money and that was the motivating factor... You have done everything in your power to deal with your problems, you do not use drugs, you moved back to the family home to distance yourself from detrimental influences of your peers. I accept you are remorseful.”
Before imposing the 18 months on McDonagh, Judge Groarke said: “There has to be a sentence which holds a value to deter you and others from committing this crime. Every single day out there people are running drugs, and there are big shots living off the pain of others and using people like you. However, there are hundreds of people out there who say ‘no, I won’t’. They are the people I have to support, those who have the backbone to stand up and say no. I want them to know they made the right choice.”