Well known restaurateur jailed for importing cannabis appeals conviction

Patrick Scanlon
Patrick Scanlon

A restaurateur jailed for importing cannabis worth €79,000 has moved to appeal his conviction in the Court of Appeal.

Patrick Scanlon (55), from West Limerick but with an address on the Channel Island of Jersey, had pleaded not guilty at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court to the possession and importation of cannabis worth €79,000 from Spain to a house in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick on August 8 2013.

He was found guilty by a jury following a three week trial and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment by Mr Justice Caroll Moran on May 21 2014.

Scanlon moved to appeal his conviction todayon grounds that he was searched for drugs twice – once at the roadside and then at a garda station before he was arrested - and no new reasonable cause had been formed by the gardaí when he was searched a second time in the garda station.

Counsel for Scanlon, Michael O'Higgins SC, said his client had approached a Mr Stephen Quinn about setting up a restaurant and he needed some space to store some bits and bobs he had ordered on EBay.

The prosecution's case was that Mr Quinn was “duped” by Scanlon into accepting delivery of a package containing cannabis, Mr O'Higgins said.

The package from Spain was intercepted, gardaí made a controlled delivery to the address and “encouraged” Mr Quinn to receive calls from Scanlon with a view to meeting him later.

However, something unanticipated had occured, Mr O'Higgins said, which “threw the (garda) operation into disarray”.

A red Volkswagen vehicle with Scanlon in the passenger seat was seen passing the house. It was suggested that Scanlon had put his hand over his face and the car drove on before being stopped some distance away.

From the gardaí's point of view, Mr O'Higgins said, the package had been accounted for, the householder had been accounted for but Scanlon was moving away from the house and the plan to “complete the loop” was now “in peril”.

His car was stopped, he was handcuffed and a full search of his person was carried out, Mr O'Higgins said.

Immediately after that, a detective garda arrived and decided to search Scanlon a second time back at the garda station.

However, no new reasonable cause or new suspicion had been formed for the purpose of a second search which resulted in a greater deprivation of Scanlon's liberty.

He was subsequently released and arrested at the garda station, the court heard.

There was no doubt, Mr O'Higgins said, that the second garda arrived with the intention of taking Scanlon back to the garda station despite being told the first search was negative.

It would appear the gardaí were not in a position to arrest Scanlon in relation to the cannabis back at the house or if they were, the decision was postponed, he said.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Anne-Marie Lawlor BL, said the fulcrum of Mr O'Higgins' case was that the first garda had completed his search but that “flew in the face of the evidence”.

Ms Lawlor said evidence was heard that the second garda continued the search, which began at the side of the road, back at the garda station.

She said gardaí were entitled by law to commence and continue a search and there was no requirement that a search by conducted by one person.

For example, a female stopped at the roadside may insist in being searched by a female garda and on Mr O'Higgins submission that could not be permitted, Ms Lawlor said.

Ms Lawlor said the continuous search was commenced at the road side and was continued resulting in Scanlon being brought back to the garda station. Those were the facts, Ms Lawlor said.

Furthermore, there was a belief that Scanlon had been chewing something and a mobile phone was later found without its SIM card.

It was suggested that a second search is often conducted in a controlled environment rather than on the roadside.

Ms Lawlor said there was nothing to suggest the second garda had any intention other than to continue the search and there was simply no evidence whatsoever of any device or ulterior motive on the part of gardaí, she said.

Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice John Edwards and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, said the court would reserve judgment.