Limerick TD says he wrote letter to judge out of compassion

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LIMERICK TD Niall Collins said he understands and respects the “absolute independence” of sentencing judges in criminal proceedings.

LIMERICK TD Niall Collins said he understands and respects the “absolute independence” of sentencing judges in criminal proceedings.

Deputy Collins - the Fianna Fail spokesman on justice - issued a statement this afternoon following revelations earlier this week that he wrote to a judge seeking leniency for a convicted drug dealer.

The handwritten letter was put forward as mitigation by lawyers representing Hugo Porter, 40, of St Patrick’s Villa’s, Castleconnell.

The father-of-four pleaded guilty earlier this year to possession of quantities of cannabis and cannabis resin for the purpose of sale or supply.

The drugs, which had a street value of almost €18,000 were recovered by gardai at Garden Hill, Castleconnell on June 24, 2011.

He also faces the possibility of having to serve a two year prison sentence for a separate assault matter in County Clare which was suspended in 2009.

In a statement, which was issued through the Fianna Fail Press Office, Mr Collins said his intention was not to interfere with the sentencing process.

“I fully understand and respect the absolute independence of any sentencing judge in making their decision based on the facts put before them during any trial. If my actions suggest anything other than total respect for judicial independence that is a source of genuine regret,” he said.

Mr Collins added that he wrote the letter out concern for Mr Porter’s four young children.

“To be very clear I wrote the letter outlining the exceptional circumstances of this family as the four children lost their mother earlier this year and I truly believed that the judge should be made aware of these tragic circumstances so that they could be taken into consideration when sentencing. My decision was based solely on compassion and concern for the four children,” he said adding that he will not be making any further comment until after the case has concluded.

On Monday the presiding judge, Carroll Moran, adjourned the case until October, to facilitate a report from social services.

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