Free legal aid for Laois gambler charged with possession of €13,000 of drugs for sale

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Free legal aid for Laois gambler charged with possession of €13,000 of drugs for sale

A Laois man charged with having over €13,000 of drugs for sale who was twice refused legal aid following State objections has been granted the legal aid in Portlaoise Circuit Court.

Patrick McDonnell, Mountrath, was twice refused legal aid in Portlaoise District Court on the charges. He applied for legal aid at the recent sitting of Portlaoise Circuit Court.

State prosecutor, Mr Will Fennelly said that the State had evidence the accused had gambled some €277,000 at a number of local bookmakers over the last two years, receiving winnings of around €227,000.

Said Mr Fennelly: “I’m not sure how someone who has to live on social welfare would be able to place that amount at the bookies.”

The accused took the witness box, to say he is on €191 social welfare a week and is supporting two children. He told the court he had a gambling problem, had no bank account, and was in no position to fund his defence.

Mr Fennelly asked had he told social welfare about his gambling problem.

“They never asked me,” replied the accused.

He went on to say that he could walk into a bookies with €200 and win €1,000, then lose it the next day.

“I used to gamble all round the country,” he said, going on to list bookmakers in Laois, Kilkenny, Kildare and Carlow.

Mr Fennelly asked the witness about the Mercedes Benz he drove. The accused replied that his sister had bought it, paying €15,000 in cash, and he drove it a bit. He said the car was registered to his sister, but when it was first bought it was registered in his name.

Judge Keenan Johnson asked why had it been put in his name, to which the accused replied: “Something to do with tax, or something.”

Garda Sgt Brian Farrell gave evidence that the accused had gambled €277,733 at four bookmakers in Mountrath, receiving winnings of €227,130.

Judge Johnson said that for argument’s sake, it might look like a huge amount of money, but it could have been the same money going around. He asked did the accused have any trappings of wealth, to which Sgt Farrell replied: “The car and flashy jewellery.”

Judge Johnson said that as things stood, the best evidence was that given by the accused and if the court dealt with the evidence offered by the State it would just be speculating. The judge granted legal aid.

ding that it was open to the State to reapply if new evidence comes up.