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gambling debt Former League of Ireland footballer avoids jail after being caught with €14,000 of cannabis

Jake Kelly was caught with the drugs after a surveillance operation by gardaí

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Jake Kelly (31), of Willow Vale, Ballybrack, Co. Dublin, at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court where he received a fully suspended sentence for drug offences. PIC: Collins Courts

Jake Kelly (31), of Willow Vale, Ballybrack, Co. Dublin, at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court where he received a fully suspended sentence for drug offences. PIC: Collins Courts

Jake Kelly (31), of Willow Vale, Ballybrack, Co. Dublin, at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court where he received a fully suspended sentence for drug offences. PIC: Collins Courts

A former League of Ireland footballer who was caught with €14,000 of cannabis has received a fully suspended sentence.

Jake Kelly (31) was caught with drugs in his car after being observed meeting with another man during a garda surveillance operation.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that he became involved in the offending due to a debt stemming from a gambling addiction.

Kelly, with an address at Willow Vale, Ballybrack, pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis for sale or supply at Carrickmines Green, Carrickmines, on September 11, 2019. He has two previous convictions for minor road traffic offences.

Passing sentence today, Judge Pauline Codd said Kelly was “a cog” in the distribution of drugs, but that the garda accepted he was vulnerable and typical of the type of person used to distribute drugs.

Judge Codd said the accused did not have a drug addiction, but rather had a gambling addiction, meaning he took “a sober decision” to involve himself in the chain of distribution.

She said he has addressed his struggles with gambling to such an extent that the Probation Service deem him to be at a low-risk of reoffending.

Judge Codd sentenced Kelly to three years imprisonment, but suspended the sentence in its entirety on strict conditions.

During the sentencing hearing, Detective Garda Marguerite Reilly told Katherine McGillicuddy BL, prosecuting, that on the date in question, gardaí were in receipt of confidential information regarding drug activity and set up a surveillance operation in the area.

Det Gda Reilly said a car driven by Kelly was observed parking at Carrickmines Green and another man got inside. A short time later, this man left the car again and appeared to be concealing something under his clothing.

This man was searched and found to be in possession of around one kilo of cocaine. The court heard that Kelly has not been charged in relation to this cocaine.

Gardaí searched the accused man's car and discovered two blocks of cannabis resin inside a shopping bag in the front passenger seat's footwell. The total value of the cannabis was €14,400.

In interview with gardaí, Kelly accepted the cannabis was found in his car. At one point during the interview, he said that out of fear for his life he had nothing more to say.

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Det Gda Reilly agreed with Fiona Murphy SC, defending, that her client had fallen very seriously into gambling around the time of this offence.

The detective agreed with counsel that her client was not on the radar of gardaí and had not come to adverse attention since the offence. She agreed he has three children with his long-term partner.

Ms Murphy said her client had played semi-professional football for 10 or 11 years and the culture there was to engage in gambling. She said as this came to an end, he found himself in debt and was under pressure to repay after borrowing money in order to gamble.

Counsel said her client was given an “opportunity” and quickly got in over his head. She said his gambling persisted during this period as he thought he could pay off the debt quicker by gambling.

She said her client has made significant changes to address the root issue that caused the offending behaviour. She said he had refrained from gambling since January of this year.

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