Cork man handed receives 12-year jail sentence at Clonmel Circuit Court
A self-confessed member of a drugs gang caught in possession of €302,603 worth of heroin and cannabis in the Cashel, County Tipperary area, has received a 12-year jail sentence at Clonmel Circuit Court for importing and possessing drugs for sale or supply to others.
Judge Tom Teehan handed down the sentence to Liam McCarthy with an address at 9 Liam Lynch Park, Glasheen, Bishopstown, Cork, who was caught in possession of 1.5kg of cannabis in a van stopped by gardai on the old Dublin Road near Cashel on January 28 last year.
In a follow up search, gardai found 2kgs of heroin and more cannabis at a house in Cashel, which McCarthy admitted responsibility for.
He received the 12-year jail term for importing cannabis with a value exceeding €13,000 and possessing heroin and cannabis valued at over €13,000 for the purpose of selling or supplying the drug to others on January 28 last year.
Judge Teehan imposed a concurrent 10 year sentence on McCarthy for possessing cannabis valued at more than €13,000 for the purpose of selling of supplying to others at Dublin Road, Cashel on January 28 last year.
The defendant, who Judge Teehan described as a "significant player" in the drugs gang he was involved in, pleaded guilty to the three offences.
The court heard Detective Garda Paul Leahy received confidential information about McCarthy travelling on the M8 Dublin to Cork motorway in a white Ford transit van and that he was transporting drugs.
Det. Gda. Leahy said members of the Garda Drugs Unit travelled to Horse and Jockey and began a surveillance operation.
They were assisted by local gardai and Armed Support Unit officers.
Liam McCarthy had a connection with the town of Cashel and it was felt he may leave the motorway at Cashel. The white van was stopped by gardai on the old Dublin Road near Cashel. The driver Liam McCarthy was accompanied by a female passenger. Three packages were found during a search of the vehicle. They contained 1.5kgs of cannabis herb.
Det. Leahy continued that McCarthy was arrested and taken to Cahir Garda Station. Gardai obtained a search warrant to search 9 Connors Close, Cashel, the address of McCarthy's girlfriend at the time. During the search of that premises, gardai found 2kgs of heroin in a wardrobe, €1650 cash and a quantity of suspected cannabis wrapped in cling film in a carrier bag. A total of €279,450 worth of heroin and €23,153 worth of cannabis was seized in the whole operation.
Liam McCarthy told gardai he owed a personal debt and had to take the cannabis found in the van to Cork. He said he was addicted to cannabis for 20 years. When interviewed about the heroin seizure at the Cashel house, McCarthy claimed ownership of the drugs and told gardai he was living at that house with his partner, who was the occupier of the property.
He told gardai he received the heroin three to four weeks ago in Cashel and was instructed to hold onto it and wait for a call. The cannabis found in the house was for his own personal use and he said the cash was his life savings from selling cars.
Det. Leahy said McCarthy admitted collecting and storing drugs for the last four to five years and he accepted he was a trusted member of a drugs gang. His role was to travel to another jurisdiction to collect drugs and store them to keep the supply chain going. The detective pointed out a number of mobile phones were seized during the searches. Gardai found messages toing and froing between the defendant and an English number. One message was about a meeting in a car park but it was changed because there were too many cameras in the area.
Mr McCarthy had 15 previous convictions, six of which were for drugs related offences including a conviction imposed in Cork Circuit Court in 2004 for possessing drugs for sale or supply to others for which he received a seven year prison sentence.
When asked if he believed McCarthy materially gained from drugs, the detective replied that he didn't believe he made substantial gains. He believed the profit the defendant made was the €1,650 gardai found in the Cashel house.
Defence barrister Philip Sheahan SC said McCarthy pleaded guilty to these offences at the first available opportunity and fully co-operated with gardai during his detention. "He answered all the questions fully and admitted his role in the organisation was above and beyond that of a foot soldier.
“Unusually he accepted he had a higher role in the organisation."
The barrister explained his client had a significant addiction to cannabis and cocaine and intimated to gardai when he was being interviewed that his drug addiction cost him his wife and children. When asked if he could give up the habit, he said 'I simply can't'. At the time he committed these offences, his client had generated a significant amount of debt.
Mr Sheahan said McCarthy instructed him to express his apology for his actions to the court. He faced a ten-year prison sentence as he had a previous conviction for possessing drugs for sale or supply to others. Mr Sheahan appealed to Judge Teehan to include a sentence review in whatever sentence he imposed and direct that he obtain conselling for his addiction.
After hearing all the evidence, Judge Tom Teehan said anybody in court for any period of time would be left under no illusion of the enormous damage illicit drugs have done to our society. "There would be far fewer victims of crime were it not for the fact that drugs are so freely used in our society and it's people like Liam McCarthy and others with him in the organisation he was part of that make it possible."
The judge said the quantity of heroin and cannabis the defendant had in his possession was a serious aggravating factor in this case. He noted heroin was perhaps the drug that has wrought most damage in our society. He considered the case to be at the top of the middle range of such offences. "He was a significant player in the organisation and was involved in importing drugs into this jurisdiction.
“He wasn't at the top of that organisation but neither was he a foot soldier.
“His plea of guilty has been entered here in circumstances where he was caught red handed with a substantial amount of drugs."
The judge also noted the evidence that the defendant had acquired a drugs debt though the case wasn't made that he acted under duress. "Nevertheless the fact he had a debt meant his feeling of freedom to act as he wished was somewhat constrained."
Nonetheless, the judge considered a plea of guilty was always hugely important and he took this into account along with his co-operation with gardai, his apology and the fact he accepted responsibility for the drugs found in the Cashel house when there was a possibility he could have blamed his partner.
Judge Teehan said he hoped some of McCarthy's apology was meant for the victims of the drugs culture so prevalent in this country. In relation to the 12 year jail term he imposed, Judge Teehan directed that it be reviewed after six years.
Judge Teehan said McCarthy would serve six years in prison before the hearing date for the review. He expected the defendant to take significant steps while in prison to deal with his addiction if the court was to consider suspending some of the balance of the prison term. He accepted the prosecution's application for confiscation of the Ford transit van and the destruction of the drugs.