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'lifestyle choice' Separating mother convicted of money laundering from son 'draconian penalty' court hears

Tanya Breen is appealing a three-and-a-half year sentence after she was caught with €59,710

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Separating a young mother who had been convicted of money laundering for criminal gangs from her son was a “deep and draconian penalty”, a court was told today.

The State, however, has argued that Tanya Breen made a "lifestyle choice for financial gain" and that her three-year prison sentence should stand.

Breen (30) was given a three-and-a-half-year sentence with six months suspended after she pleaded guilty to possession of €59,710 in cash, which was the proceeds of crime, at Maxol Service Station on the Longmile Road, Dublin, on February 11, 2020.

Breen, formerly of Colepark Green, Ballyfermot, Dublin, but now a prisoner at the Dochas Centre, also pleaded guilty to a second count of possessing the proceeds of crime at her home on the same date.

She has appealed the sentence imposed by Judge Elma Sheahan last February at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

The Court of Appeal was told today that Breen was a first-time offender who had not come to the attention of gardai before her arrest.

Dean Kelly SC, for the appellant, said his client was a mother who has been “substantially and draconically punished” by being kept apart from her son, who was 10 when she was jailed, and that the sentence she was required to serve was too long.

Although Mr Kelly conceded she did not co-operate fully with gardai after her arrest, he said Breen had “came into a courtroom, with the harp on the back wall, and pleaded guilty”.

Describing the appellant as a mother “in the very meaningful sense” who doesn’t use her son “as some sort of shield”, Mr Kelly said she accepted “she made a desperately foolish decision”.

Mr Kelly added his client was her son’s sole carer and separating a mother from her child was a “deep and draconian penalty”.

Grainne O’Neill BL, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, said Breen’s money laundering had helped “drug dealers to realise profits from their drug dealing activities”.

“Deterrent is an important sentencing principle and is particularly relevant in this case,” Ms O’Neill said, adding that the sentence imposed was appropriate “in terms of the offence and the offender.”

“She is not of tender years, not in poverty, there were no loans, addictions, or threats from third parties,” counsel continued.

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“She was offered an opportunity and she took it. It was a lifestyle choice for financial gain.”

On hearing submissions, Court President Mr Justice George Birmingham said Breen had made “a conscious decision to become involved in serious criminality”.

“If criminal gangs didn’t have someone to perform this [money laundering] for them, they couldn’t function,” the judge added.

Judgment has been reserved.

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