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"Reformed gambler" who stored cannabis, drugs and ammunition is jailed

Store man: Coffey was holding the drugs, guns and ammunition for others
Store man: Coffey was holding the drugs, guns and ammunition for others

A man described by a judge as a “fully reformed gambler” has been sentenced to four and a half years in jail for storing cannabis worth over €64,000, along with guns and ammunition.

Christian Coffey (38) had gambling debts of over €50,000 when he agreed to act as a “store man” for others by keeping illegal items at a rented premises in north County Dublin.

Judge Martin Nolan said the father-of-two, with an address at St Catherine's Park in Rush, Co Dublin was a “remarkably decent man” who had been “laid low by gambling”.

Coffey pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possessing cannabis herb and cannabis resin worth a total of €64,658 at Container No 3, Amble Stores, Skerries Road, Lusk on October 17, 2013.

He also admitted unlawfully possessing two Russian semi-automatic pistols and 16 rounds of ammunition at the same time on the same date.

Although the Director of Public Prosecutions had recommended a sentence of seven to eight years, Judge Nolan imposed a four and a half year sentence for the firearms offences, with the other counts taken into account.

He said Coffey had “perfect mitigation” and took into account his previous lack of convictions, his early guilty plea, his excellent work record and work ethic over 20 years and his contribution to the community via his GAA club.

Judge Nolan said references provided on behalf of Coffey showed he was very popular within the community, very remorseful and highly unlikely to reappear in court.

The court heard that at the time of the offence Coffey had serious gambling debts including €30,000 to AIB, €10,000 to Bank of Scotland, €10,000 to Bank of Ireland, €12,000 to his parents and €14,000 to money lenders.

Coffey told gardaí on his arrest that he was paying €650 a month to moneylenders and had been given 18 months to repay his debts.

Sergeant Thomas Waters told Tony McGillicuddy BL, prosecuting, that search warrants were obtained for both Coffey's house and the container he was renting at Amble Stores in Lusk.

Coffey was arrested after gardaí stopped his car and he led them to the premises in Lusk, where he said he thought there was a “bag of green”.

Coffey opened the electronic gates and unlocked the container where gardaí found the drugs and guns, which were in good condition and wrapped in cloth.

Coffey made full admissions to gardaí and said he was renting the premises and acting as a “store man” for others.

He said he met people and transported items to the container knowing they were illegal, but not to what extent.

He apologised through the gardaí to his family for the shame he had put them through.

Michael O'Higgins SC, defending, said his client had worked in Dublin Airport for 20 years for companies including Ryanair, British Midlands, and Avis Rent-A-Car and latterly in security screening.

He said Coffey had an impeccable work record but lost his job shortly after his arrest.

Mr O'Higgins said Coffey underwent the “classic boom and bust cycle” of the gambler over 20 years and inflicted “terrible misery” on those around him.

He said Coffey had completed a twelve week residential course at Cluain Mhuire and had not placed a bet since the day after his arrest when he told his children he was going to jail.

Coffey wrote a letter to court apologising to his partner, children, parents and the gardaí. Judge Nolan said even at this early stage, it appeared that Coffey was “fully reformed”.

Jessica Magee