Dublin criminal can appeal Portlaoise Prison drug dealing conviction

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Portlaoise Prison

Drug dealing from Portlaoise Prison.

Dublin criminal Brian Rattigan has been given a date in June to appeal his conviction for directing the supply of drugs from Portlaoise Prison.

Rattigan (38), formerly of Cooley Road, in Drimnagh, had pleaded not (not) guilty at the non-jury Special Criminal Court to possession of heroin and two counts of possession of the drug for sale or supply on Hughes Road South, Walkinstown, Dublin 12 on May 21st, 2008.

The three-judge Special Criminal Court agreed with the prosecution case that Rattigan was the director of a drugs gang conducting a €1 million euro heroin deal. He became the first drug dealer to be found guilty of charges connected to directing the supply of drugs while in prison.

During the trial he was cleared of two counts relating to the possession of two mobile phones at Cell 42, E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison while an inmate at the prison on May 22nd, 2008, which he had also denied.

Sentencing Rattigan to 17 years in prison, Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding, said the Special Criminal Court had regard to the “very frightening” evidence of drugs expert Detective Sergeant Brian Roberts, who told the court of the effect heroin had on society as well as the “alarming” 3,972 drug-related deaths in Ireland between 2004 and 2010.

The sentence, imposed on March 20, 2013 and backdated to June 2008, was directed to run in tandem with a life sentence he was then serving for the murder of 21-year-old Declan Gavin.

Rattigan had been found guilty by a jury in December 2009 of stabbing Mr Gavin to death outside an Abrakebabra fast-food restaurant in Crumlin on August 25th, 2001.

However, earlier this month the Supreme Court quashed Rattigan's conviction for the murder of Mr Gavin over closing remarks made by the trial judge to the jury which, a majority of the Supreme Court found, had gone further than was desirable.

In the Court of Appeal today, Tuesday December 19, Mr Justice John Edwards fixed June 5 next as the date for the hearing of Rattigan's appeal against conviction for drugs offences. It is an appeal against conviction only.

Counsel for Rattigan, Brendan Grehan SC, said the case would finish in under a day.

Rattigan was not in court for the procedural matter.

The 2013 Special Criminal Court trial of Rattigan heard that Gardai who raided the house on Hughes Road South discovered five kilos of heroin valued at over €1 million and a red and white Nokia phone in a shed at the back of the property, while a search of a bedroom inside the house yielded just over €36,000 in cash.

Detective Sergeant Brian Roberts gave evidence that a text message found on the Nokia phone, which spoke of “half bars,” boxes” and “9” being allocated to names such as “Gangko” “McGyver” “Peck” and “Crazy”, referred to the division of drugs by weight.

The court heard that the sender of the text message was a phone number belonging to a SIM card that was thrown out of Brian Rattigan’s prison cell, while there was expert evidence of the distribution weights and street names associated with heroin, including slang such as “dark”, “nasty” and “the bad thing”.

A text message sent from one of Rattigan’s phones to another phone found on a man arrested at the house on Hughes Road read: “That dark is there rm”, while a text message sent to one of Brian Rattigan’s phones asked: “Can you give me half a box of the bad thing for 13 I am waiting on a few bob I could sort you out”.

There was evidence that a detailed diary replete with entries on a fitness regime, betting activities and a drugs “tick list”, was also found in Rattigan’s prison cell.

In March 2011 the Director of Public Prosecutions ordered that Rattigan's trial should be moved from the Circuit Criminal Court to the Special Criminal Court (SCC), which normally deals with terrorist offences, because the ordinary courts are "inadequate" to try the case.

The Special Criminal Court was told that the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, made an order that Rattigan should be tried at the non-jury SCC following an application by the Director of Public Prosecutions under the Offences Against the State Act.