Man gets suspended sentence despite original punishment being ruled “unduly lenient”

Man gets suspended sentence despite original punishment being ruled “unduly lenient”

A South African man given a wholly suspended sentence for possessing cannabis concealed in pieces of timber has been given another wholly suspended sentence despite a finding that his original punishment was “unduly lenient”.

Warren Bowen (48), with a last address at The Palms, Kinvara, Co Galway, had pleaded guilty at Galway Circuit Criminal Court to possession of €37,100 worth of cannabis for sale or supply at his home on October 19 2011.

He was given a wholly suspended four year sentence by Judge Rory MacCabe on February 27 2014 which was successfully appealed by the Director of Public Prosecutions on grounds that it was “unduly lenient”.

The Court of Appeal imposed a new two-year sentence on Bowen today but suspended it in full. 

Mr Justice John Edwards said Bowen's continued good behaviour, the anxious and stressful nature of waiting for determination of the DPP's appeal as well as the re-establishment of Bowen's relationship with his 13-year-old daughter was enough to push the case over the line of exceptionality.

Mr Justice Edwards said Bowen was observed by gardaí removing a piece of timber from a van and leaving it at the side of his co-accused's father's house in Kinvara.

The piece of timber was later found to contain a substantial quantity of cannabis resin and as a result of the discovery, the gardaí conducted a follow up search of Bowen's house.

They found cannabis in two pieces of timber along with cannabis in Bowen's bedroom totalling €37,100, the judge said.

Garda Paul McWalter testified that the drugs in this case were concealed in an unusual manner in that they had been cleverly concealed within the timber itself.

An ordinary piece of timber was sliced length ways, and one slice was then hollowed out in various chambers.

The drugs were then placed in these chambers and expanded foam was placed around them to prevent movement.

The other timber slice was then glued back on top of the hollowed out piece and the whole thing was made to again look like a very ordinary piece of timber.

Mr Justice Edwards said that while no special circumstances existed in February 2014 to justify a wholly suspended sentence, it was now 17 months further on and that issue needed to be reconsidered.

The three-judge court regarded a two year custodial sentence as the minimum that could have been served.

Understandably, Bowen would have felt relieved and most likely believed the matter had come to an end following the Circuit Court trial, Mr Justice Edwards said.

The court has acknowledged, the judge said, that where a person has been at liberty prior to an undue leniency appeal there is additional disappointment at the end of a period of anxiety.

The stressful nature of that experience has been recognised as justifying perhaps an additional degree of leniency, Mr Justice Edwards said.

Coupled with Bowen's continued good behaviour and the undesirability of undermining the recently reestablished relationship with his daughter, Mr Justice Edwards said, cumulatively there was enough to push this case over the line.

Mr Justice Edwards, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, said special circumstances now existed to enable the suspension of the two years.

Bowen was required to enter into his own bond of €100 to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for the suspended period of his sentence.

When asked if he undertook to be so bound, Bowen said “I do”.