Man caught three times in seven months with heroin avoids jail

Father of seven was caught with heroin three times in seven months
Father of seven was caught with heroin three times in seven months

A panel beater who turned to cocaine after losing his home when work dried up during the recession has avoided jail after being caught by gardai three times with heroin.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Dublin father of seven Robert Smith (37) had been allowed to run up a cocaine drug debt and was then “worked like a mule” by the drug dealers with “no light at the end of tunnel.”

Smith, of Cashel Avenue, Crumlin, Dublin pleaded guilty to possession of heroin at his home in September 12, 2014; at Sarsfield Road, Dublin 10 on March 13, 2015 and at Kevin Street garda station on April 3, 2015.

Prior to the recession Smith had moved with his growing family to a larger home in Laois but after work dried up around 2008 he had to hand back the house to the bank who sold it at a considerable loss with over €200,000 still outstanding on the mortgage.

He moved his family back to Dublin where his difficulties finding work continued and his life began to spiral out of control due to his abuse of alcohol and cocaine.

Judge Desmond Hogan noted Smith had been a good father and provider for many years and had bought a bigger house in an attempt to better themselves before the recession hit.

He said Smith had been a “ready made target” for drug dealers and noted windows in his house had been broken accompanied with an implied threat.

“The threat of violence from them is omnipresent. It's their stock in trade,” said Judge Hogan. He commented the only way to deal with situations such as that was to go to the gardai otherwise silence would continue to prop these people up.

He noted Smith was now drug free and he and his wife were trying to get back on their feet.

Judge Hogan imposed consecutive sentences totalling five years which he suspended in full.

Garda Niall Godfrey told Garrett McCormack BL, prosecuting, that gardai acting on confidential information searched Smith's address and found a total of €1,950 worth of heroin.

In March and April of the following year he was stopped and searched by gardai and found with €3,000 and €2,700 worth of heroin. He was on bail at the time of both those offences.

Smith co-operated with gardai at all times and outlined his own role. He told gardai he had a drug debt and was working it off but had no idea how much he had paid off.

Gda Godfrey agreed with John Costello BL, defending, that Smith was in genuine fear of the people he was “working” for and that windows in his home had been broken. He agreed Smith had taken all the steps he could to put this behind him and had the support of his family.

Mr Costello said Smith had worked from his teenage years as a panel beater and would have worked up to 20 hours a day when it was available to support his family.

He said they moved out of the city but fell into financial difficulties when work dried up and his wife was unable to work due to an injury.

Mr Costello said the family fell into mortgage arrears and Smith began to work instead as a taxi driver. He started using alcohol to numb his difficulties in 2008 and accrued a conviction for drunk driving. He could no longer drive a taxi and their financial problems spiralled.

He said the family moved back to Dublin after losing their house and Smith's difficulties with cocaine spiralled. He was supplied with drugs free of charge and then told he owed thousands of euro and would have to pay it off with no target or end date in sight.

Mr Costello said Smith was now drug free and handed letters from his family into court.

By Fiona Ferguson