A CONVICTED drug dealer who received a letter of support from Limerick TD Niall Collins has avoided a prison sentence due to the exceptional circumstances surrounding the case.
Imposing sentence this afternoon Judge Carroll Moran reiterated that the letter written by Deputy Collins had not influenced his decision.
He said he accepted that Mr Collins had the best of motives and did not believe he was doing anything untoward,
The handwritten letter was put forward in June as mitigation by lawyers representing Hugo Porter, 40, of St Patrick’s Villa’s, Castleconnell.
The father-of-four had earlier pleaded guilty 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.
In the letter, which was not read out in court, the Fianna Fail spokesman on justice urged the sentencing judge not to impose a prison sentence on the defendant.
The letter was written on official headed paper and included Niall Collins’ photograph and contact details.
During the sentencing hearing, Judge Moran was told the offence occurred during the term of a suspended prison sentence which was imposed in 2009 after Mr Porter pleaded guilty to a ‘glassing’ offence in county Clare.
However this afternoon, John O’Sullivan BL, prosecuting, said no application was being made to activate the suspended sentence as the defendant had pleaded guilty to the drugs charges after the period of suspension had expired.
Last week, Michael Collins BL, defending, said the written letter by Deputy Collins had become the subject of a “media circus” and had been used for political point scoring.
He said Mr Porter had returned home following the court hearing in June to find “sections of the media camped on his doorstep”.
He said his client had to gain access to his home via a rear door and that he had “spirited away” his children on a camping trip to “protect them from such an intrusion”.
Mr Collins rejected suggestions that the letter submitted by Deputy Collins was an attempt pervert the course of justice.
He described the intrusion as “insensitive to say the least” adding that some of the commentary reflected poorly on those who sought to use it for political gain.
A comprehensive report prepared by Tusla - The Child and Family Agency - was submitted to the court in relation to Mr Porters four children ahead of today’s sentencing hearing.
Imposing sentence, the judge noted that the report stated that were he to impose a prison sentence, it would cause instability for Mr Porter’s children.
He noted the defendant’s wife took her own life earlier this year and he commented that the imposition of a prison sentence would inflict undue punishment on his sons, who range in age from 11 to five.
Noting the exceptional circumstances of the case, he imposed a three year prison sentence, which he suspended for three years telling Mr Porter he is a “very lucky man”.