Galway woman avoids jail after man packed cannabis in her case

A woman described as “gullible, naïve and an easy target” has avoided a jail term after a man she had just gone on holiday with packed almost €60,000 of cannabis into her suitcase.

Paula Cunnea (48 ) who had been living in Cill Cais, Clybaun Road, Galway, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of cannabis, valued at €58,786, for sale or supply at Dublin Airport on March 5, 2011. She has since returned to live with her extended family in London.

Judge Martin Nolan said Cunnea obviously realised at some point that this man had put something in her suitcase and she had an option to report it to gardai.

“She took the path of least resistance and acquiesced to this man’s wishes” the judge said before he accepted that Cunnea probably had difficulty confronting people.

Judge Nolan also accepted that Cunnea’s “moral culpability” was at the lowest end and she had an “exceptionally light involvement” in the offence.

He sentenced her to five years in prison which he suspended in full on condition that she keeps the peace and is of good behaviour for five years.

Garda Mark Reay told Paul Carroll BL, prosecuting, that Cunnea was stopped in the airport by custom officers. Her suitcase was searched and the cannabis was found hidden in white foam.

Cunnea said she had been on a holiday with a friend who had taken her suitcase just as they were about to leave and packed it.

Gda Reay agreed with Caroline Biggs SC, defending, that Cunnea has no previous convictions and was a completely different person to others before the courts on similar charges.

He accepted that she was a “gullible, gentle type of person” who did not benefit from the transportation of these drugs.

Gda Reay further accepted that Cunnea comes from a very respectable family who have been completely traumatised by the offence.

He agreed that there was “another individual in the background” who Cunnea had gone on holidays with and whom she had been friends with for a long period of time.

Gda Reay accepted a suggestion from Ms Biggs that this man had “organised the event and taken advantage of her”.

Ms Biggs said her client comes from a “very, very close-knit family” who were all in court to support her.

She said the family lived in Ireland for a long time but had returned to London in 2007. She came back to live in Galway a short time later.

She said Cunnea has worked most of her life in the retail business and is a recovering alcoholic, having developed an addiction between the ages of 16 and 25.

Ms Biggs said there was evidence before the court that her client was “gullible, naïve and an easy target”.

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