'Ridiculous': Judge Marian O’Leary
A JUDGE at Limerick court has described as ‘ridiculous and worrying’ the number of students who are being caught in possession of cocaine.
In recent weeks close to 100 cases have come before Limerick District Court relating to detections which were made by gardai last September and October.
In each case, Judge Marian O’Leary was told the drugs, ranging in value from €5 to €80, were seized after the offender was searched by gardai.
Most of the seizures were made late at night at locations in the city centre. Each of the defendants admitted having the cocaine for their own personal use.
The vast majority of those prosecuted and brought before the court were young men – aged in their late teens or early 20s.
At one sitting of the court, during which almost 30 cases were dealt with, the judge was told that none of the offenders had previous convictions.
“It’s on the party scene, everyone is doing cocaine, there is a certainly a lot of it going around at present,” said solicitor Sarah Ryan during one case.
During a separate case, solicitor Ted McCarthy said: “There seems to be a lot of it going around in college.”
Both solicitors pointed out that their respective clients had bright futures ahead of them and that neither of them had an addiction problem.
Judge O’Leary, who has often pointed out the potential effects of a drugs conviction, commented that young people appear to have “plenty of money” to spend on cocaine.
“It’s ridiculous, the amount of cases involving cocaine which are coming before me is worrying,” she said, adding that she does not want to penalise first-time offenders by recording criminal convictions
Addressing the court, the judge asked: “How do we get the message out there that this (a conviction) will ruin their lives?”
The judge pointed out that students’ career prospects and their ability to travel to certain parts of the world are likely to be severely restricted if they are convicted of a drugs offence.
Mr McCarthy told the court he was willing to make contact with one named educational institution with a view to meeting with and talking to students – particularly first year students who he said are “like lambs to the slaughter”.
While welcoming the suggestion, Judge O’Leary said parents and persons in authority also need to be more proactive in preventing drugs use.
While almost all of the cases before the court in recent weeks were adjourned for review later in the year, the judge has indicated she may have to reconsider her attitude.
This has been interpreted in legal circles as a warning that she is likely to consider recording convictions.