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appeal court Man caught 'red handed' with €900k of cannabis remanded after sentence found too lenient

Ciaran Lawn had initially received a suspended sentence but the DPP appealed the term

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A man who avoided a jail term after being caught ‘red-handed’ transporting drugs worth an estimated €900,000 was remanded in custody this morning, days after the Court of Appeal found his sentence was unduly lenient.

Ciaran Lawn (43), of Derrykillew, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, had received a three-year wholly suspended sentence after pleading guilty to possession of a controlled substance for sale or supply contrary to Section 15a of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 on December 15, 2019 at Drumgoolestown, near Ardee, Co Louth.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) later appealed the sentence on the grounds it was unduly lenient.

At a hearing earlier this week, the Court Of Appeal agreed with the DPP and quashed the non-custodial term handed down by Judge Mary O’Malley-Costello at Dundalk Circuit Criminal Court in July last year.

Lawn was then instructed via his lawyers that if he failed to attend today’s hearing in person a warrant would be issued for his arrest.

Today, Fiona Murphy SC, for Lawn, told the court her client was present and was willing to be placed in to custody.

Ms Murphy advised the court her client had been unwell earlier in the week and that was why he did not attend the hearing.

Before he was taken into custody, Lawn was informed by Court President Mr Justice George Birmingham that his case will be called again on May 12.

On Monday, the court was told that gardai had observed Lawn moving €840,000 worth of cannabis and €59,000 of cocaine from the back of a lorry parked next to the N33 in Co Louth.

Kevin Segrave BL, for the DPP, said that wholly suspended sentences were only handed down when there were “special reasons of a substantial nature and wholly exceptional circumstances”.

“There was nothing in this case of an exceptional nature,” Mr Segrave said, adding that as a starting point, a three-year custodial term for the offence Lawn had been convicted of could be considered “somewhat light”.

Lawn, counsel continued, had previous convictions for “significant” road traffic offences, had been caught “red-handed” with the drugs, and had failed to co-operate with gardai after his arrest.

In response, Ms Murphy said her client’s previous convictions occurred almost 10 years before his arrest on drugs charges.

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She said her client suffered from “serious” mental health issues and it seemed “there were significant issues at play” at the time of the offending, which the judge correctly considered prior to sentencing.

The defence barrister said that while there could be no dispute over the high value of the drugs seized by gardai, she said her client was only a courier in the operation and was living on social welfare at the time of his arrest.

“He wasn’t someone who had made serious gains as a result,” Ms Murphy said.

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