Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Glen Stankard (26) was the driver of a van containing more than €496,300 worth of cannabis which was spotted during a gardai surveillance operation.
Stankard with an address at Balrothery Estate, Tallaght, Dublin pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis for sale or supply at Larchill, Santry on March 25, 2021.
Judge Pauline Codd imposed a sentence of six years, with the final three and a half years suspended on the basis that Stankard enter a bond to be of good behaviour for this period.
Stankard had been used as a “cog” by others higher up the chain, however, the value of drugs seized requires a custodial sentence, the judge said.
Garda Detective Peter Ronan gave evidence that gardai were carrying out a surveillance operation on foot of confidential information when they observed the transfer of two boxes from a van driven by the defendant to another van.
The boxes were found to contain 25 packages of cannabis weighing 24.8kg, with a total value of €496,384. €6,000 in cash was also found hidden in the van.
The defendant, who was not the target of the surveillance operation, was wearing the insignia of a courier company he had previously worked with.
The boxes were also sealed with tape bearing the company's logo. A second accused is due to stand trial at a later date.
Stankard read a prepared statement during his third interview with gardai in which he apologised and said he had been asked to move the drugs to reduce a drugs debt.
He said he was aware that something illegal was being moved, but did not know what was in the boxes.
Under cross examination from defending counsel, Detective Ronan agreed that Stankard moved the drugs on behalf of others.
In mitigation, the court heard that Stankard had a difficult childhood and his issues with cocaine began following a family tragedy.
He has taken steps to address his addiction including residential treatment.
Counsel asked the court to consider a wholly suspended sentence in light of the exceptional circumstances of Stankard's background.
Judge Codd accepted that Stankard was at a low level in the operation and had taken steps towards rehabilitation.
She said a custodial sentence is required as a deterrence due to the effects of drugs on society.
Judge Codd said the aggravating factors were the value of the drugs and that the defendant wore the logo of a legitimate courier, who he had previously worked for.
Judge Codd set a headline sentence of ten years, which she reduced to six years taking the mitigating factors into account.
She suspended the final three and a half years and directed Stankard to follow the directions of the Probation Services for two years following his release.
She acknowledged Stankard's guilty plea and a level of co-operation with gardai.
While Stankard was vulnerable due to his impulsivity and anxiety, he had “allowed himself to be a cog, however small” in the movement of drugs, Judge Codd.