IN the region of €22,000 was last week paid into the poor box at the district court in Portlaoise, the result of charitable donations made in lieu of formal convictions arising out of drug offences at last year’s Electric Picnic.
Over 100 people were charged with drug possession, with a few also charged with possession for sale or supply, at last year’s music festival which took place in Stradbally between August 31 and September 2. As with previous years, anyone who appeared before Judge Catherine Staines without any previous drugs convictions was allowed to avoid a criminal conviction by making a donation of €300 to the poor box. Most people had the money with them in court, although anyone who did not was given until July 11 to pay.
A number of people who appeared did have previous convictions and in their cases a conviction and fine was imposed. A number of defendants also failed to appear in court to meet the charges, and their cases were put back to September 12.
The vast majority of defendants were in their 20s or 30s, with some 20 counties around the State represented among the many addresses listed.
Judge Staines said that among the charities to benefit would be Merchant’s Quay and the Athy Alternative Project, which offer help to the victims of drug abuse. Among the remarks made by Judge Staines to the defendants, was her admonition of a young Foroige leader from Dublin who was caught with cannabis herb.
“You’re dealing with young people and hopefully advising them against drugs - this isn’t a great example,” she said. “You’re putting your future at risk.”
Also charged was a 19-year-old legally blind woman from Limerick who defence, Mr Declan Breen said got separated from her minder at the Picnic and was asked to mind a pouch containing drugs. Garda Pat Scully said he accepted defence’s claim and her case was struck out.
A Dublin man who was previously caught with drugs at the Picnic in 2010 begged the court for leniency, but Judge Staines said people were only getting one opportunity and she convicted and fined him.
And there was one man who claimed mistaken identity, with his case put back to September.