Restaurateur jailed for importing cannabis has 15-year prison sentence reduced to 11

Patrick Scanlon
Patrick Scanlon

A restaurateur jailed for importing cannabis worth €79,000 has had his 15 year prison sentence reduced to 11 on 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 successfully appealed his sentence today on the ground that the sentencing judge erred by imposing an excessive sentence having regard to the mitigating factors and value of the drugs.

Speaking on behalf of the three-judge court, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said the court accepted the submissions of Scanlon's barrister, Michael O'Higgins SC, on this ground and held that it amounted to an error in principle.

Mr Justice Sheehan said the court had originally allowed a three year reduction in Scanlon's sentence but in light of additional material submitted, the court reduced it by a further year.

The additional material included newspaper articles and documentary evidence of Scanlon's charitable works including the running of a marathon in prison, a letter of commendation from the prison governor and chaplain and a booklet of certificates among other documents.

Mr Justice Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, quashed Scanlon's original sentence and imposed in its place a sentence of 11 years imprisonment.

In submissions on Mr Scanlon's behalf, Mr O'Higgins said his client had previously served a sentence in Limerick prison for drugs possession during which he ran two marathons in prison and raised €44,000 for charity including €10,000 for children in Chernobyl.

That was turned into a tv documentary for RTÉ's Would You Believe, Mr O'Higgins said.

Scanlon served his sentence and was released in 2004. For what was in effect a decade, Mr O'Higgins said, his client was not on the radar of the law before he got “caught up” in the present offence.

He was a person who had attempted to do much good in his life. He had an “inherent weakness” for gambling and drugs but was not a hardened criminal, Mr O'Higgins said.

What was "the benefit of incarcerating this man for a day longer" than the law required, counsel submitted.

Mr O'Higgins said his client was asking for mercy and clemency and he had sufficient information before the court to do that.