Retired footballer caught with €400,000 worth of drugs has his sentence reduced

Farmer appealed his sentence on the grounds previous ruling did not give weight to his medical problems
Farmer appealed his sentence on the grounds previous ruling did not give weight to his medical problems

An accomplished soccer player forced to retire due to kidney failure has had his sentence for possession of cannabis worth more than €400,000 reduced by the Court of Appeal.

James Farmer (36), of Phibblestown House, Clonee, Co Meath, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of drugs for sale or supply at Newland's Cross, Dublin and at Phibblestown House on January 28 2011.

He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment by Judge Martin Nolan on February 27 2012.

Farmer successfully appealed his sentence today on grounds that the sentencing judge did not give sufficient weight to his medical problems and the added difficulty they would cause him in prison.

Giving background the case, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said Farmer and his co-accused were seen transferring two cardboard boxes between two cars in the Aldi car park at Newland's Cross on the date in question.

Both cars were intercepted by gardaí resulting in the discovery of €122,000 worth of cannabis and during a follow up search of Farmer's house, €312,000 worth of cannabis was found along with drugs paraphernalia, Mr Justice Mahon said.

Gardaí believed Farmer was “a gilly” or a low lever player, the judge said.

Allowing his appeal, Mr Justice Mahon said Farmer had serious medical problems including kidney failure which required dialysis and a severe bowel disorder. In 2011 he had a kdney transplant.

Prior to this Farmer was an accomplished soccer player and coach of children, the judge said, but because of his illness he was forced to give up his sporting activities and lost his job.

Mr Justice Mahon said his medical conditions were generally manageable in prison but his serious bowel condition presented difficulties with daily bodily functions and increased risk of infection.

He said the criminality involved in the case was “very serious” having regard to the significant value of the drugs and the havoc they would have caused to members of society. Farmer's role, albeit at the lower end, was “crucial to the operation”.

Mr Justice Mahon said the judge was permitted to depart from the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment for possession of drugs worth more than €13,000.

The Court of Appeal was of the view, he said, that insufficient weight was afforded to Farmer's medical problems and added difficulty they would cause him in prison on a daily basis.

Accordingly, Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards, directed that the final 18 months of Farmer's seven year sentence be suspended.

Farmer was required to enter into his own bond of €100 to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for a period of 18 months and for two years post release.

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

Ruaidhrí Giblin