Dublin man nearly "sh*t bricks" after armed gardai swooped on €480k drugs rucksacks

Ken McDermott
Ken McDermott

An unemployed courier who was caught with guns, ammunition and just over €480,000 worth of ecstasy tablets and cocaine has been jailed for six years.

Father-of-three Ken McDermott (47) told gardai that he agreed to take part in the importation operation to support his family. He was arrested after detectives received confidential information about a planned importation of firearms at Dublin Port.

Family members sobbed loudly as he was taken into custody after sentence was handed down in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today.

McDermott of Glenties Road, Finglas, Dublin pleaded guilty to possession for sale or supply of controlled drugs and unlawful possession of firearms at Cardiffsbridge Road, Finglas on May 27, 2015.

Judge Melanie Greally said McDermott carried out the crime for financial gain to support his family, with no consideration as to the impact the drugs would have on the community.

She accepted McDermott was unaware of the exact content of the packages. "But if he had given any thought to the matter, he would have known that drugs or firearms were likely to be within the shipment and ignorance cannot be pleaded," the judge said.

Judge Greally took into account several mitigating factors when handing down the sentence, including McDermott's guilty plea, his financial circumstances at the time of the offence, his family support and his low risk of re-offending.

Garda Detective Brian McDermott told Pieter LeVert BL, prosecuting, that the accused had run his own van courier business for 20 years but that it had gone under recently.

After his arrest he admitted knowing there was something illegal in the bags but said he didn't know it contained guns.

"I've a family to look after, and I'll take responsibility for what I did, but I had to look after my family," he said. He told them he thought it was a much less serious offence and that he nearly "shit bricks" when he saw the armed gardai appearing to arrest him.

The court previously heard a surveillance operation was set up to monitor a vehicle transporter arriving at the port. This was followed to a car park in Finglas where a Citroen car was driven off the transporter.

McDermott was seen arriving in a white van and taking two rucksacks from the Citroen to the van. He then drove the van to Finglas where detectives moved in and arrested him.

One of the rucksacks, which was locked with a small travel lock, was found to contain a .32 Colt revolver and a .38 Remington revolver, and seven rounds of working ammunition. This bag also contained cocaine with an estimated street value of €219,104.

Four vacuum pack packages of ecstasy tablets, with an estimated value of €256,820 were discovered inside a hold-all bag. A slab of cocaine worth an estimated €17,444 was found in the driver's footwell of the car while just over 1kg of lignocaine and caffeine was found in the passenger's footwell.

The total estimated street value of the controlled drugs discovered in the van was €483,372. McDermott's only previous convictions are for minor offences committed in the eighties.

His sister-in-law, Ann Doyle, said that the time of the offence was a dark time for him financially as there were bills "left, right, and centre" and a mortgage "climbing the walls".

She said he saw an opportunity and took it but he regretted it to this day. She said he had hit rock bottom since his arrest but he was back working and trying to piece his life together.

Judge Greally recommended that he be placed in Mountjoy Prison so he could be close to family members.

Declan Brennan