Man jailed for possession of €2 million of cannabis has appeal dismiss

Central Criminal Court
Central Criminal Court

A man who was observed by surveillance gardaí making cannabis drop-offs and subsequently jailed for possessing more than €2 million worth of the drug has lost an appeal against the severity of his sentence.

Terry O'Donoghue (51), of Ely Close, Old Court Road, Tallaght, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possessing €2 million worth of cannabis for sale or supply at Cookstown Industrial Estate, Tallaght, between February 27 and 28, 2013.

He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with the final three suspended by Judge Mary Ellen Ring on April 7, 2014.

O'Donoghue lost an appeal against the severity of his sentence today/yesterday with the Court of Appeal unable to identify any error in principle.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said gardaí obtained information and O'Donoghue was placed under surveillance by the Garda National Drugs Unit.

Det Gda Kieran O'Reilly gave evidence in the Circuit Court that the GNDU had observed O'Donoghue at a lock-up in Cookstown loading a Renault van with several black sacks and driving away.

O'Donoghue was observed stopping at a slip road on the N7 where he met another individual and a “drop off” took place, Mr Justice Mahon said. The receiver was stopped and just under 10 kilograms of cannabis worth €199,584 was found.

The following day O'Donoghue was observed returning to the premises, loading up the van and making another drop off in Straffan.

The receiver of this drop off was stopped and 30 kilograms of cannabis worth €601,000 was found, Mr Justice Mahon said.

A search of the lock up was carried out at which €1.29 million of cannabis was found. The total value was €2.1 million.

Counsel for O'Donoghue, Padraig Dwyer SC, submitted that the sentence was “just too harsh” having regard to his client's personal circumstances.

Mr Dwyer said O'Donoghue lost his wife to cancer in 2008 and lost his 18-year-old daughter in very unfortunate circumstances one year before the offence took place. As a result of his daughter's death, he became indebted, Mr Dwyer said.

Counsel said O'Donoghue had pleaded guilty, was found to have insight into his offending, was suffering from alcohol abuse at the time and the gardaí accepted that he had been exploited.

Mr Justice Mahon said the value of the drugs haul meant this case was one of “utmost seriousness”.

Unfortunately, the judge said, O'Donoghue's level of involvement went far beyond that of simply being a drugs courier. He was involved in renting the premises and organising vehicles in connection with the storage and distribution of the drugs.

A person with previous convictions and less tragedy in his life could have expected a term of 10 years, the judge said.

Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court was satisfied that O'Donoghue's sentence was reasonable and appropriate. The court accordingly dismissed the appeal.