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03 Jul 2022

Judge says drug use in Portlaoise by far the worst in the midlands

Man remanded on €35,000 Laois drugs charge

A Circuit Court Judge said Portlaoise has an “enormous” illegal drug problem that’s worse than any of the other towns in the midlands. 

Judge Keenan Johnson made the comments as he sentenced Ugnius Sakalis, 26, of Monastery Gate Close, Clondalkin Dublin. The defendant was sentenced to six years in prison with the final year suspended for possession of 120 kilos of cannabis herb valued at €2.42 million at a storage facility in Emo in August of 2021. 

Having presided in Portlaoise for a number of days, Judge Johnson said “the issue of illicit drug use in Laois and particularly in Portlaoise is enormous. It’s by far the biggest problem of any of the towns I deal with in the midland district.”

The use of illegal drugs creates crime, puts pressure on the health system and “basically undermines society”, he told the court. 

“I think it is very important that young people be educated as to the dangers of drugs,” he added. Judge Johnson warned that “cannabis is anything but a safe drug” and he said it is linked to psychosis in users. He made the comments during the sentencing hearing and said society has to severely punish such crimes to reflect society’s abhorrence of illegal drugs. 

The Lithuanian defendant had admitted working for an eastern European organised crime group. He had been transporting the drugs for payment. The court heard he had been in custody since his initial arrest and was a model prisoner and had cooperated with gardai during their investigation. 

Judge Johnson imposed a six year sentence which he backdated to August 30, 2021. He suspended the final 12 months for five years on condition that the man enter a bond and engage with the probation services.

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