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Man who said he was tricked by friend after he was caught with €6m of cannabis is jailed

The judge said that if Mark Nesbitt had pleaded guilty, he would have received a sentence of five or six years

Jessica Magee

A 51-year-old man has been sentenced to eight years in prison after he was caught transporting cannabis worth around €6 million, which he said he believed was a consignment of shoes.

Mark Nesbitt of Whitefield House, Cecil Crescent, Hatfield, Hertfordshire in the UK, was found guilty by unanimous verdict of a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in January this year, following a six-day trial.

He had pleaded not guilty to possessing cannabis for sale or supply at Stockhole Lane, Cloghran, Swords, Co Dublin on October 23, 2020.

Passing sentence today, Judge Martin Nolan said that if Mr Nesbitt had pleaded guilty, he would have received a sentence of five or six years.

Judge Nolan said Nesbitt had been “inveigled” by his friend the co-accused, Anthony Kinghorn, whom he described as “at a higher level” in the drugs operation, to come over to Ireland and do a job for him.

Co-accused Kinghorn (49) of Har Lane, Hatfield, Hertfordshire in the UK, pleaded guilty to the same offence and was sentenced last July to ten years in prison with the final two years suspended.

The court heard that Nesbitt wrote a letter to the judge appealing for leniency and saying he felt “utterly let down” by his friend, whom he thought he was helping in his time of need.

Detective Garda Val Russell told counsel for the State Garrett McCormack Bl that gardaí had got confidential information about a consignment of Victor Dwyer shoes being routed from Spain to Dublin.

When gardaí contacted Victor Dwyer Shoes last October, Mr Richard Dwyer said they were not expecting any such consignment of shoes.

The court heard that when customs officials x-rayed the consignment and opened it, they found six pallets containing about a third of a tonne of cannabis, with an estimated street value of around €6 million.

The vac-packed drugs were returned to an address at Rhenus Logistics in Dublin 12, where gardaí mounted a surveillance operation.

Gardaí obtained CCTV footage showing Nesbitt driving a Mercedes van on 23 rd October 2020 and dropping co-accused Kinghorn at Costa Coffee near Rhenus Logistics.

The accused was then seen driving to Rhenus Logistics where the van was loaded with pallets before he drove back to Costa Coffee and collected Kinghorn. Both men were then arrested by gardaí at Stockhole Lane, Cloughran in Swords.

Nesbitt told gardaí he had no idea what was in the consignment and had been instructed by Kinghorn to bring a van of shoes to Dublin. He said he felt “duped” by Kinghorn.

Karl Monahan BL, defending, said Nesbitt had had a very successful business as a painter and decorator, employing ten employees, but that he had been defrauded by his former business partner.

The court heard that Nesbitt is on an enhanced regime in Cloverhill Prison where he works as a painter.

Psychiatric and other reports given to the court showed Nesbitt suffered from depressive and adjustment disorders and was deemed at low risk of reoffending.

He has one previous minor conviction in the UK for cultivation.

Judge Nolan accepted that Nesbitt had a good mitigation and a strong work history and said he was a pro-social individual who takes care of his family.

Nesbitt asked that he be repatriated to a UK prison so that he could receive visits from his family, including his elderly mother who was unwell.

The sentence was backdated to October 23, 2020.

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