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Dublin father-of-one caught with €285k worth of cannabis and gun is jailed

Gardai caught the accused with a handgun, ammunition and €285,000 worth of cannabis
Gardai caught the accused with a handgun, ammunition and €285,000 worth of cannabis

A man who acted as a “gilly” or a pawn in the drug trade has been sentenced to six years in jail after gardaí found him with a handgun and cannabis worth over €285,000.

Keith Donovan (30), of Offaly Road, Cabra in Dublin, was arrested just over a year ago following a major surveillance operation by the Garda National Drugs Unit.

The father-of-one admitted possessing 14.2 kilos of cannabis herb at a rented premises in Arbour Hill, Dublin on April 17, 2014. He also pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possessing a handgun and three rounds of ammunition on the same occasion.

Judge Martin Nolan said that although Donovan was in the “lower order” of the operation and acted as a holder or transporter, he knew he was dealing with a large amount of drugs.

The judge took into account Donovan's early guilty plea, his cooperation with gardaí, his absence of a criminal record and the fact that he has not been in trouble since.

The judge said these mitigating factors, combined with the fact that Donovan was a good father and came from a good family, allowed him to depart from the mandatory 10-year sentence for the drugs offence and to impose a lesser sentence of six years.

Garda Lindsay Hennelly told Anne Rowland BL, prosecuting, that gardaí were watching the Arbour Hill premises when they saw Donovan approach in a silver Honda Accord at about 6:30pm.

He was followed closely by a second car. A short time later, Donovan drove out of the premises with another man in the passenger seat and was stopped shortly after by gardaí.

Gardaí found the boot of his car full with household items, but when they pushed on a back panel it opened to reveal three large plastic bags containing three kilos of cannabis worth €60,000.

A key was found in the car to a white Ford Transit van, which contained household items and several hold-all bags filled with 11.2 kilos of cannabis.

The owner of the premises said Donovan had rented a shed to store household products including toilet rolls, as Donovan said he did the markets.

Gardaí searched Donovan's home and found a small quantity of cannabis, which the accused said he would use to make “a small bit of profit”.

However he said the 14 kilos of cannabis found in the vehicles was not his, but that it was his job to move it on.

Donovan said it was his first time to be involved in such an offence and that he was in financial difficulty and was “trying to get back on his feet”. He said he was to be paid €1,700 for moving the drugs and the gun.

He agreed that he was a “gilly” as he did the “donkey work” for others, ranking himself on a scale of one or two out of ten in terms of his role in the drugs operation. Donovan has six previous minor convictions for road traffic offences.

Patrick McGrath SC, defending, said his client had developed a severe gambling addiction over some years and had become financially distressed.

Letters were handed to court from Donovan, his partner, his father and from his employer, a roofing contractor who praised his reliability and competence.

The court heard that Donovan does voluntary work for a homeless charity and helps out at his local football club in Cabra.

Jessica Magee