A WELL-known Limerick restaurateur has been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, after he was found guilty of importing almost €80,000 worth of cannabis from Spain last summer.
Throughout a three-week trial at Limerick Circuit Court, Patrick Scanlon, aged 53, who is originally from Loughill and who has an address in Jersey had denied importing the drugs on August 8, last.
It can now be revealed that Scanlon has a number of previous convictions for drugs offences and was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in December 2000 for possession of more than €1.6m worth of cannabis resin.
Some 130kgs of the drugs were recovered in June 1999 in boxes which Scanlon was unloading from a van in a car park at Mount Kennett.
During the recent trial, the jury was told a package containing almost 4kgs of cannabis was dropped off at Malaga Airport just before 1.30pm on August 6, 2012 and that it arrived at Shannon Airport just after 7am the following day having passed through DHL depots in Spain, Belgium and England.
Having been intercepted by Customs officers, the package was delivered to a house at Churchview, Pallaskenry on August 8, 2013 by a detective from the divisional drugs unit posing as a DHL courier.
It was the prosecution case that Scanlon had ‘duped’ the occupier of the house - Stephen Quinn - into accepting the package, which he had claimed was “bits and bobs” he had bought on Ebay for a failed restaurant venture in Askeaton.
There was evidence of phone traffic in the days before the “controlled delivery” which connected Scanlon’s mobile phone with Mr Quinn’s mobile and landline. There was also evidence from gardai that he was observed in the village watching the house where the drugs were delivered.
Following almost three hours of deliberations this afternoon, the jury of seven women and five men returned with unanimous guilty verdicts in relation to all four charges.
Scanlon, who wore a white short-sleeved shirt and a tie with his hair tied back in a ponytail showed no reaction as the verdict was read out.
The defendant previously made headlines more than a decade ago while he was serving a prison sentence in relation to the 1999 drugs seizure.
In 2001, he raised €10,000 for the Chernobyl Childrens Project when he completed a marathon by running 628 laps of the exercise yard at Limerick prison.
Three years later he was granted temporary release for 48 hours to allow him to run a double marathon from Limerick to Ballybunion - again for charity.
At the time, Adi Roche of the Chernobyl Children’s Project described Scanlon as a “truly inspirational figure”.
UK novelist, Jeffrey Archer - who was also in prison at the time - sent Scanlon a STG£50 cheque and a well done note for his fundraising efforts.
After his release in 2006, Scanlon featured on RTÉ’s ‘Would You Believe’ programme during which he spoke about turning his life around while in prison.
In recent years Scanlon had been living and working at a hotel in Jersey but returned to Limerick in June of last year.
In his evidence, last week, he denied having any involvement with the cannabis and in her closing speech, Alice Fawsitt SC asked the jury to consider the possibility he had been set up and was the “fall guy”.
In mitigation, Ms Fawsitt SC said her client has a “severe gambling addiction” and has not amassed any property or wealth arising from the offence.
Imposing sentence, Judge Carroll Moran said the prosecution case against Scanlon had been “coercive” and he said the defendant had told multiple lies (to gardai and to the court) which, he said, had been proven to be “deliberate falsehoods”.
Following submissions from Michael Collins BL, prosecuting, instructed by State Solicitor Aidan Judge, Judge Moran said he had no option but to impose a mandatory sentence of at least ten years in prison as it was Scanlon’s second such offence.
He said the legislation was designed as a message to everybody “but in particular to the bench and judges” that these types of offences are to be treated most severely.
“And it is an acknowledgment of the serious harm that is done to society by drug dealing and peddling drugs,” he added.
He imposed a fifteen years prison sentence, backdating it to the date of the offence.
Leave to appeal was granted.