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Dublin man caught holding €80k of cannabis to pay off drug debt avoids jail

Evan Harborne (27) of Rathfarnham was immediately co-operative and told gardaí they would find “weed in the wardrobe”

Sonya McLeanSunday World

A man who was holding just under €80,000 of cannabis in order to pay off a drug debt has been given a suspended sentence.

Evan Harborne (27) of Barton Court, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14 pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of the drugs, worth an estimated €79,526, for sale or supply at his rented home on January 6, 2021. He has no previous convictions and has not come to garda attention since.

Garda Stephen Burke told Diana Stuart BL, prosecuting that gardaí secured a warrant to search Harborne’s rented home and were directed to an upstairs bedroom where they met him.

Harborne was immediately co-operative and told gardaí they would find “weed in the wardrobe”.

In a follow up interview, he said he did not sell drugs, he just wanted to clear a €650 debt.

Gda Burke described Harborne as “very forthcoming” throughout his questioning. He said he previously had been a cocaine addict but he was now using €50 of cannabis per week which led to his debt.

Harborne told gardaí that his family had already “discharged a previous drug debt”.

Gda Burke agreed with John Fitzgerald SC, defending, that there is a network in drug enterprises and a hierarchy within that network.

“In my experience he is at the very lower end of that network,” Gda Burke said and accepted that there was “nothing to suggest” that Harborne has any wider involvement in drug dealing.

When asked by counsel if he had a degree of sympathy for Harborne, Gda Burke replied “absolutely”.

He confirmed that Harborne’s role was limited to holding the drugs. “If he held onto the drugs – gave it to whoever he was told he should give it to – the debt would be cleared,” Gda Burke said.

Mr Fitzgerald handed in 21 testimonials on behalf of his client and a number of months of clear urine analysis. He said a probation report put Harborne at a low risk of re-offending.

“There are some depressingly familiar aspects in the case in terms of the process by which someone uses drugs, moves onto harder drugs and is eventually extended a line of credit. The line of credit runs out and they are a very simple and naive tool then to be used in the manner my client was used,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

He asked the court to take into account the "limited nature" of his client’s offending and involvement, the extremely positive probation report and the work he has done since his arrest in getting off drugs.

Judge Elma Sheahan said Harborne had co-operated with the gardaí from “the moment of the execution of the warrant”.

She accepted that he has since rehabilitated and had provided a number of clear urine samples over a considerable period of time.

She accepted his good work history, his strong support from family and friends and a probation report which stated that Harborne expressed remorse and regret for his involvement.

Judge Sheahan indicated that the case warranted a headline sentence of four years before she took into account what she termed “significant mitigation”.

She reduced the term to two and half years in prison which was suspended in full on the condition that Harborne keep the peace and be of good behaviour and stay away from illicit drugs for those two and half years.


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