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Dublin father had no choice but to hold €500k worth of heroin, court told

Court: Keith O'Brien said he had no choice but to hold the drugs
Court: Keith O'Brien said he had no choice but to hold the drugs

A father of four had no choice but to hold over €500,000 worth of heroin for serious criminals after he was held responsible for the loss of a separate haul of drugs that had been ruined by damp, a court has been told.

Keith O’Brien (37) had agreed previously to mind €8,000 worth of drugs after he was offered a way to make money following the loss of his job. The drugs were destroyed by damp while he had them and the owners held him for responsible.

He was jailed for five years by Judge Martin Nolan who accepted that O’Brien was under considerable pressure to “abide by the wishes of the third parties”.

O’Brien of Ruthland Avenue, Crumlin, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to having almost 3.5 kilogrammes of heroin with a total street value of €532,339 on October 2, 2013. He has 19 previous convictions for road traffic offences and has never served jail time.

Garda Patrick McAvinue told Fergal Foley BL, prosecuting that O’Brien was spotted putting a shopping bag behind the driver’s seat in a Volkswagen, after gardaí watched him leave his own home in his Nissan Almera.

Both O’Brien and the driver of the Volkswagen were arrested and €30,000 worth of heroin was later found in the shopping bag.  A follow up search of O’Brien’s home led to the discovery of €498,000 worth of the drug.

O’Brien made full admissions in interview and told gardaí he was instructed by “serious criminals” to deliver packages of heroin to certain areas. He was not due to be paid for his role.

Gda McAvinue told the court that O’Brien was a good family man who “was used by quite serious criminals” to become involved.  He said the man had previously refused to mind drugs and was viciously assaulted as a result.

Gda McAvinue agreed with Dominic McGinn SC, defending,  that his client had previously agreed to mind drugs after he lost his job. He had a new baby in the house and someone offered him an easy to way to make money.

These drugs later got damp and were destroyed. He was told he owed €8,000 for the loss of the haul.

Gda McAvinue accepted a suggestion from counsel that O’Brien was struck on the head with a baseball bat and needed 12 stitches when he later refused to mind drugs again.

He said he believed that O’Brien had no choice but to hold this 3.5 Kg of heroin.

He further accepted that O’Brien was “genuinely shocked” when he learned of the true value of the drugs and he didn’t gain financially for his role.

Mr McGinn told Judge Nolan that it was “a tale the court hears too often” of a man who is “preyed upon” by more serious offenders who are at the higher end of the criminal ladder in drug operations.

He said O’Brien accepts and recognises that the amount of the drugs was enormous but asked the court “not to lose sight of my client as an individual” and take into account his previous good character, plea of guilty and co-operation with the garda investigation.

Sonya McLean