28 May 2022

Man caught with €4.1 million worth of drugs has sentence increased to ten years

A man given seven years for his role in “a large scale drug distribution hub” has had his sentence increased to ten years by the Court of Appeal.

Stephen Sarsfield (39), of New Street Gardens, Dublin 8, pleaded guilty to possessing €4,170,932 of cannabis and heroin for sale or supply at an address on Ballyfermot Drive, on July 17, 2017. He had four minor previous convictions. The three-judge appeal court found that the original seven-year sentence was unduly lenient given the "enormous scale of the activity".

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court previously heard that Sarsfield was spotted transferring boxes of cannabis from a large lorry into a garage in a Dublin housing estate before gardaí moved in. Detective Garda Brian Foran told prosecuting lawyers that officers “were practically tripping over stuff” when they discovered 188 kgs of cannabis herb and 2.9 kgs of cocaine.
He called it “a large scale drug distribution hub” that also had a money counting machine, two plastic bag sealers, three stun guns and a weighing scales.

Sarsfield was sentenced to seven years imprisonment by Judge Martin Nolan on April 10, 2018. Delivering judgment today, President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said Sarsfield was caught with 300 times the amount of drugs required for a court to impose the minimum sentence of ten years imprisonment. He said a judge can impose a sentence of less than the minimum in exceptional circumstances, such as where the accused enters an early guilty plea or assists gardaí in the investigation of the case.

Justice Birmingham said Sarsfield's early guilty plea should be seen in a context where he was "caught red-handed". He added: "Beyond the plea, nothing very much was put forward by way of material assistance." 

While he acknowledged that Judge Nolan is "one of the most experienced, if not, in fact, the most experienced sentencing judge in the country," he said the court takes the view that the seriousness of the offence and the "enormous scale of the activity" warrants a longer sentence. He said a sentence greater than the minimum ten years could be justified, but in circumstances where the court is dealing with an appeal he set the term at ten years. He added: "We do so in a situation where we cannot see any basis for concluding that the imposition of the presumptive minimum sentence would, in all the circumstances, be unjust."

Mr Justice Birmingham sat with Ms Justice Maire Whelan and Mr Justice Pat McCarthy.

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