Author: Ronan Judge
~ 3 minutes read
A County Galway teenager caught with almost €44,000 worth of cocaine in a garda surveillance operation has learned “a serious, serious lesson”.
At Galway Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Brian O’Callaghan imposed a 120-hour community service order on the 17 year-old-boy, who cannot be named because of his age.
At the ‘in camera’ hearing, Judge O’Callaghan told the teen, who was accompanied in court by his parents, that only for his guilty plea, he would have been subjected to a period of detention.
“You’re lucky you’re not going into detention”, he said.
The teenager pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine for sale or supply at a time when the aggregate market value of the drugs amounted to €13,000 or more.
The offence relates to a seizure of drugs near Dunlo Harbour in Ballinasloe on September 19, 2021.
The offence, which is contrary to section 15 (A) of the Misuse of Drugs Act carries a mandatory minimum 10-year prison sentence.
However, prosecuting counsel, Conall MacCarthy BL, told the court the 10-year minimum sentence does not apply to persons under the age of 18.
Counsel said the determination of sentence is “entirely within the gift of the court” and the imposition of a custodial sentence on a minor “should be a last resort”.
In evidence, Sergeant Eoin Fox said a “stash” of suspected cocaine was discovered in a disused yard near the town.
The court heard a surveillance operation was put in place and at approximately 5.02pm on the day of the offence, the accused was seen claiming over a wall.
Sgt Fox said the boy put on latex gloves and retrieved a lunch box.
The sergeant confirmed to Mr MacCarthy that the box contained six sandwich bags of cocaine. The drugs were later valued at €43,449. The teenager has no previous convictions.
Defence barrister, Bernard Madden SC, told the court his client was a keen sportsman who started to hang around with “negative influences” after taking up alcohol and cannabis.
The court heard the boy claimed he took responsibility for a drug debt of a few hundred euro and was targeted as a drug mule.
However, Mr Madden said the probation officer was of the view that for the accused to have become embroiled in the drug trade to such an extent at such a young age was “far-fetched and unlikely”.
“A more unlikely drug mule I could not think of”, counsel added.
Counsel said his client has the full support of his family, has re-engaged in education and attended all meetings with the his probation officer.
Judge O’Callaghan said offences of this kind would usually attract a custodial sentence.
But he said the accused’s guilty plea at the earliest opportunity “opened doors that would not have been available to this court had he not done it”.
The judge also commended the accused for severing links with his former peer group.
“You have a serious, serious lesson learned. A most unlikely drug mule you could not meet is how Mr Madden described you and that is supported by the probation officer,” he said, imposing the community service order.
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