Brazilian woman caught in Dublin Airport with cocaine hidden 'intimately'
A Brazilian woman caught carrying cocaine pellets internally in her body and underwear at Dublin Airport has had her jail term cut on appeal.
Christiane Moringa Fortis (28), with an address in Sao Paulo, Brazil, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the importation of cocaine worth €64,000 at Dublin Airport on May 14, 2014.
She was sentenced to four years imprisonment by Mr Justice Patrick McCartan on December 16, 2014.
Fortis successfully appealed her sentence today on grounds that the Circuit Court judge erred in his approach to sentencing and accordingly, the Court of Appeal imposed a new sentence on her of four years imprisonment with the final 18 months suspended.
Speaking on behalf of the three-judge court, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said Fortis had told immigration officers at Dublin Airport that she was coming to Ireland to study English.
The immigration officers were suspicious of her and a swab of her passport tested positive for cocaine, the judge said.
She admitted possessing the drug and revealed a number of cocaine pellets in her bra, underwear and sanitary towels in her luggage.
Mr Justice Sheehan said she was carrying 10 cocaine pellets in her vagina and following her arrest she was taken to Beaumont Hospital where a further nine were removed from that part of her body.
She said she was to receive €3,000 for carrying the drugs and her motivation was to get money to pay legal fees to reclaim custody of her seven-year-old child in Brazil.
Mr Justice Sheehan said Fortis had made full admissions to gardaí who in turn accepted that she came across as child-like.
Detailed psychological reports assessed her as being naive and psychologically vulnerable and the absence of her father made her vulnerable to maltreatment by men in later life, the judge said.
She had no previous convictions and appeared to have no history of alcohol or drug abuse.
She was in a considerable amount of debt at the time of the offence, expressed considerable remorse for her action and vowed never to engage in criminal behaviour again.
Mr Justice Sheehan said it was not clear where on the scale of offending the judge located this offence, as had been submitted by her barrister Caroline Biggs SC.
Furthermore, it was unclear how the sentencing judge weighed Fortis' mitigating factors such as her guilty plea, previous good record and good working history.
For this reason, Mr Justice Sheehan said the court found the judge had erred in his approach to sentencing.
He said Fortis “must serve a sentence of imprisonment if nothing more than to act as a deterent”.
Mr Justice Sheehan said it was “essential that it be known that those who import illegal drugs into Ireland will go to jail” absent extraordinary circumstances.
Accordingly, Mr Justice Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards, imposed a new sentence on her of four years imprisonment with the final 18 months suspended.