A WHEELCHAIR bound man who distributed cannabis across Limerick and Kerry believed he was less likely to be stopped by gardai because of his disability, a court has heard.
Jason O’Sullivan, 33, Ballyhahill, Co Limerick, was arrested in Kerry but his sentencing hearing had to be heard in Limerick this week, because Tralee court house is not wheelchair-accessible, Limerick Circuit Court heard.
O’Sullivan and his partner, Dawn McCarthy, 33, also with an address at Ballyhahill, Co Limerick, pleaded guilty to possession of almost €12,000 worth of cannabis for sale or supply on December 6, 2010.
Drugs were found in the vehicle driven by McCarthy, when they were stopped on the Dingle to Tralee road, and further drugs were found in their house in their house in Ballyhahill, where they had lived with their now 14 year-old son.
Sergeant Declan Liddane, head of the Kerry division for drugs, said they received confidential information and “suspected the couple of being used to distribute drugs in the Tralee area”. A third person in the vehicle has already had their case dealt with, and said they had no knowledge of the drugs in the car, which were due to be dropped off at a location not identified in court.
Nine separate one ounce deals which were individually wrapped were found in a handbag in the car, along with a number of mobile phones, which showed text messages relating to drug dealing.
Cannabis grinders, along with other drug paraphenalia were found in the house in Ballyhahill, where drugs were hidden in plastic bags behind the fridge in the kitchen. Twenty-eight individual one ounce deals were found there, amounting to €8,803.
The court heard O’Sullivan was in a serious motorbike accident 10 years ago, which left him with “permanent and irreparable damage” and will see him confined to a wheelchair for life.
He has 20 previous convictions, including convictions for robbery, assault causing harm, drink driving and a number of other road traffic matters.
The couple had to move from Ballyhahill to Newcastle West since the offence, as the former house wasn’t suitable for his needs.
Brian McInerney, BL, for the defence, said O’Sullivan has had an addiction to alcohol and drugs. He said his client stressed that he was responsible for the drugs, not his partner. He said he “got her into this and she was not a willing participant”.
Mr McInerney urged the judge that there would be difficulties in detaining someone in prison with this level of disability, saying he has ongoing pain as a result of his injuries. “You cannot treat Mr O’Sullivan the same as you would treat an able-bodied person before the courts,” he said.
Mark Nicholas, BL, representing McCarthy, said she got involved at her partner’s request, and made very open and honest admissions to gardai, which was accepted by the Sergeant. She was re-sitting her Leaving Certificate at the time of the offence, and is now doing a foundation level course at a Limerick college.
“She got a shock. She hasn’t been in trouble since,” said Mr Nicholas. She has also acted as carer to her partner since his accident, “at great sacrifice to herself”, he said.
Both defendants faced a maximum sentence of life in prison. Judge Carroll Moran said the appropriate sentence was four years but agreed to suspend the final half of the sentence because of O’Sullivan’s disability.
He said if he did not impose sentence he would leave other people vulnerable to exploitation by drug lords. He said his disability may have been one of the reasons why he was invited to get involved in the illegal trade.
He complimented O’Sullivan’s “chivalrous stance” towards his partner, but added that he was “part of the structure of drug dealing” and was more than just a drugs courier.
Nonetheless, the judge said he has “a lot of sympathy for him”.
He suspended all of McCarthy’s four-year sentence, noting that their child “would be an orphan” if she too was imprisoned.