A Co Wexford based “man with a van” who advertised himself as available to do jobs as a way out of debt has been jailed after he was caught with boxes containing €350,000 of cannabis.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Paul O'Leary's role was simply as a courier and he had no wider involvement.
His lawyers submitted that as “a man with a van” without a criminal history and who was amenable to making money he had put a “red flag” on himself making him attractive to others after advertising his delivery service on the internet.
O'Leary (51), of Follyhouse Lane, New Ross, Co Wexford, pleaded guilty to possession of the drugs for sale or supply at Sir John Rogerson's Quay, Dublin on April 24, 2017.
Today Judge Melanie Greally sentenced O'Leary to five years with the final two years suspended on strict conditions including that he engage with the Probation Service for 12 months upon his release from prison.
Judge Greally had adjourned the case having first heard evidence last July. She said O'Leary was offered a modest amount of money to get involved in the enterprise.
She accepted that he has a good work history and has struggled with a gambling addiction and his mental health. She also acknowledged that O'Leary is a devoted father to his three children, and that “a favourable probation report” placed him “at a low risk of re-offending”.
Judge Greally said it appeared to be “a lapse of judgement” on O'Leary's behalf before she sentenced him.
Detective Garda Jerome Twomey told Eoin Lawlor BL, prosecuting, at the previous hearing, that gardai mounted a surveillance operation on receipt of confidential information that there was to be a drugs transfer.
O'Leary's van was observed parking at the quay. After a second van arrived he and the other driver transferred two cardboard boxes to O'Leary's van. Gardai arrested both drivers and just over 17 kilograms of cannabis was found in O'Leary's van with a street value of €350,104.
During interview he acknowledged the presence of the boxes and gave an account of receiving them to bring to another location. He has two minor previous convictions for public order offences.
Det Gda Twomey agreed with Sean Gillane SC, defending, that O'Leary's involvement was that of a courier and he had no wider involvement. He agreed there were no trappings of wealth.
Mr Gillane said O'Leary's background was “unremarkable and ordinary in all the good senses associated with that”. He said his client had largely been in employment throughout his life and undertook courses when not working.
He said O'Leary was a family man who had lost his way and wound up with gambling debts. He said as a way out of his financial trouble he had purchased a van and advertised himself as a man with a van who would do jobs.
Mr Gillane said in doing so O'Leary had put a “red flag” on himself and he was attractive to others as a person with a van having no criminal history who was amenable to earning money. He said that instead of finding a way out he had deepened his troubles.
He said O'Leary was deeply ashamed and remorseful. He was a person who had a history of giving back to his community in terms of sports coaching.
He said his client was a man who was more than capable of rehabilitating himself and there was little or no risk of him coming back before the court. He asked the court to take into account his guilty plea.