Woman dealt drugs to feed horses at an animal sanctuary

Court Reporter

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animal cruelty

Court report

A woman who resorted to dealing drugs to feed horses at her animal sanctuary in Kerry has lost an appeal against the severity of her four-year jail term.

Rosalind Barton (49), with an address at Barrduff, Killarney, Co Kerry, pleaded guilty to possessing €139,000 worth of cannabis for sale or supply at Dromalour, Kanturk, Co Cork on December 8, 2017 as well as possession of €8,000 worth of cocaine at her home on the same date. 

Barton told gardaí that her sole motivation for the offence was the financial need to feed animals abandoned on her property. She was to receive €500 for the large consignment of drugs and €100 for the smaller consignment. 

She was sentenced to six years imprisonment with the final two years suspended by Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin on January 10, 2019, which was upheld by the Court of Appeal on Friday, October 25.

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said gardaí observed two vans pulling into the side of the road outside Kanturk on the date in question. 

She said two black refuse bags were taken from one of the vans and placed into the van being driven by Barton. Inside was found cannabis herb worth €139,000.  At a follow-up search Barton's home, €8,000 worth of cocaine was also found. 

Barton fully admitted her role in the transaction and told gardaí that it wasn’t the first time she had taken delivery of drugs, although she had no relevant previous convictions. 

As such, the sentencing judge said Barton was an active participant in the supply of drugs “on a countywide basis”.

Counsel for Barton, Michael Hourigan BL, submitted that his client’s “frankness and forthrightness” was used against her as an aggravating factor.

He accepted that Barton’s stated motivation for the offences was financial gain, but she wasn’t someone typically involved in a commercial enterprise. 

Mr Hourigan said “she did it for the welfare of animals” and whatever money she had was being transferred into the care of horses who were effectively abandoned on her property.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Imelda Kelly BL, said the amount of cannabis was ten times over the threshold set by the Oireachtas for a 10-year minimum sentence. 

She said Barton received “significant credit” from the sentencing judge for her mitigating factors and had done “extremely well” all things considered. 

Ms Justice Kennedy said Barton’s culpability in the offence was higher than that of her two co-accused, who received a fully suspended sentence and a three-year jail term. 

She said Barton was involved in the distribution of drugs for financial gain. 

In mitigation, Ms Justice Kennedy said Barton had no relevant previous convictions, had pleaded guilty early and had cooperated with gardaí. She also had a history of depression and other difficulties. 

However, she said it was apparent that the sentencing judge had addressed his mind to each of those factors and applied an appropriate reduction.

Ms Justice Kennedy, who sat with President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham and Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly, said the court could find no error in principle and the appeal was therefore dismissed. 

Mr Hourigan told the court that Barton had completed a number of courses while in prison and was “training animals for the disabled in her cell”.