THE owner of a chip-shop in Rathkeale was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment after he admitted transporting a significant quantity of cannabis to repay a debt he owed.
Brian O’Riordan, aged 44, who has an address at St Mary’s Park, Rathkeale pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis resin, for the purpose of sale or supply at Cowpark Kilcornan on April 9, 2013.
During a sentencing hearing, which was heard earlier this year Detective Garda Joe Cusack said the drugs were seized after he and a colleague stopped a white Ford van, which was being driven on the N69 by the accused, at around 8.50pm.
He told Limerick Circuit Court two “half-kilo boxes” of the drugs were found in a gear bag which was located under the legs of the front-seat passenger.
he added that smaller quantities of cannabis were found in money bags, which were concealed in the defendant’s socks.
The court heard the passenger been picked up by on the road a short time before the van was stopped and that he was “completely innocent” and had no involvement whatsoever with the drugs.
The drugs, which weighed 975 gramms had a street value of almost €19,500 .
During interview O’Riordan, who has two children told investigating gardai, that he had received a phone call earlier in the day instructing him to collect the drugs which he had intended selling on in order to pay off a debt he owed.
David Sutton SC said his client, who employs a number of people at his fast-food business, had gotten into financial difficulty some time before the incident and owed around €10,000.
He said his client had taken an “unwise and foolish” course of action and that he has not come to the attention of gardai since the incident. A number of written testimonials were presented to the court which stated that Mr O’Riordan’s actions had been completely out of character.
Imposing sentence on Tuesday, Judge Tom O’Donnell noted the testimonials and positive contents of a probation report, which state that he is a “low risk of further offending”.
He said the defendant’s guilty plea, his admissions and his cooperation with gardai following his arrest were all mitigating facts in the case.
He also noted that he had not been “on the garda radar prior to this escapade” and that he still owes a debt over the drugs which were seized.
The judge said the quantity of drugs seized was an aggravating factor in the case as was the fact that the offence carries a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years imprisonment.
However, he said he did not believe such a sentence was merited in the case.
He sentenced O’Riordan to three years’ imprisonment, suspending the final 18 months for five years.
The judge also ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the drugs seized.
John O’Sullivan BL, instructed by State Solicitor Aidan Judge, indicated a separate Police Property Application ie likely to be made in relation to almost €2,500 in cash which was also recovered from the defendant’s van.