Heroin charge thrown out after judge hears charge brought only after defendant reminded DPP

A man who pleaded guilty to possession of three grammes of heroin had his case struck out in the District Court this week (February 9 ) after the judge discovered the case might not have been brought had the defendant himself not prompted the justice system about this outstanding charge.

Appearing before Judge Mary Devins on a body warrant from jail was Richard Keating (37 ) with an address at 55 Thornbury Drive, Willow Park, Athlone who had been stopped whilst driving in Lissywoollen, Athlone on May 14, 2009 and searched in accordance with the Misuse of Drugs Act. He was subsequently arrested and taken to Athlone Garda Station where gardaí found the three grammes of heroin worth €450. Inspector Aidan Minnock told the court gardaí accepted this was for personal use.

Keating had 29 previous convictions, the court heard, which included a €350 fine in the Dublin District Court on April 13, 2010 for possession of drugs, and an 11 month jail sentence from the District Court in Athlone on February 24, 2010 for possession with intent to supply.

Judge Devins asked the inspector why there had been such a delay in bringing this particular charge to court, and he replied that he wasn’t sure but that it was most likely a delay in the analysis of the narcotic seized.

Unconvinced, Judge Devins queried the dates the offences dealt with in Dublin and Athlone last year were committed, and was told these were September16, 2009 for the 11 month sentence, and November 20, 2009 for the €350 fine.

“Both of these dates are after May 14, 2009. Why didn’t analysis delay these court dates?” the judge asked, and Inspector Minnock couldn’t say.

However, defending solicitor, Mr Tony McLynn felt he could clear up this anomaly, and explained how Keating is presently serving another sentence, and was not due for release until September 30.

“My client asked the Prison Service when he went in whether he had any outstanding warrants and this one surfaced,” he said.

Deciding this to be an unacceptable delay in the serving of justice, Judge Devins struck out the charge against Keating.

“I don’t think this is what was intended in the Constitution. It’s a sad day when a defendant has to prompt the prosecution,” she said.

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