A YOUNG man who admitted storing drugs worth more than €140,000 in a ditch near his rural home was sentenced to three years imprisonment.
Michael O’Neill, aged 25, of Ballyboudeen, Kilteely pleaded guilty to possession of quantities of cannabis, amphetamines and ecstasy on February 5, 2012.
During a sentencing hearing at Limerick Circuit Court, Sgt Sandra Heelan said members of the divisional drugs squad called to the cottage where O’Neill lived and searched the premises under warrant.
She said following their arrival, the defendant showed them a black holdall, which was hidden in ditch across the road.
Sgt Heelan said 4.4kgs of cannabis, 5.8kgs of amphetamines and 63 ecstasy tablets were found in the bag, and that further smaller quantities of drugs were found in the cottage.
The total value of the drugs seized was €141,150 and Sgt Heelan agreed with Michael Collins BL, prosecuting, that the quantity of drugs was “commercial” in scale.
Following his arrest, O’Neill, who has ten previous drugs convictions, admitted he had been given the drugs a day or two earlier and was storing them for another individual.
Andrew Sexton SC said his client was himself a drug user and that “there was no question of any trappings of wealth”.
He said he is one of eight children and that he comes from a tragic family background as his mother died when he was a toddler.
“He is a vulnerable individual,” said Mr Sexton.
In mitigation, Mr Sexton submitted to the court that while his client had not identified the owners of the drugs, he “didn’t hesitate in owning up”.
Helen O’Neill - a sister of the defendant told the court that her brother helps out on the family farm as their father is elderly.
“He does all the heavy work,” she said adding that he hoped he would not spend too much time in prison.
Judge Carroll Moran the fact that O’Neill had pointed out the location of the holdall to gardai was a mitigating factor in the case as was his guilty plea.
However, he said the quantity of the drugs seized was an aggravating factor as were his previous drugs convictions.
“While a storeman is at a lesser level of culpability than the owner, he is still an essential cog (in the illicit drugs trade),” he said.
The judge said he had to impose an immediate prison sentence and he sentenced O’Neill to three years.