11 Aug 2022

Businessman who transported cannabis to pay debt loses appeal

Businessman who transported cannabis to pay debt loses appeal

A Latvian man who transported €19,240 worth of cannabis to help pay off a business debt has lost an appeal against the severity of his five-year prison sentence.

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said Jurijs Savcuks (39) made a decision to get involved in drugs and added: "Such decisions have consequences."

Savcuks, with an address at Chapelton, Hollystown, Dublin 15 pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to possession of drugs for sale or supply at Kilshanny, Mitchelstown, Co Cork on January 30, 2020.

His barrister Paula McCarthy BL argued on Monday to the three-judge Court of Appeal that sentencing judge, Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin, did not give enough credit to Savcuks for his previous good record and the fact he was acting under duress. Counsel outlined the background to the offence, telling the court that her client was trying to set up his own business but when he failed to get a loan he decided to take money from a "not legitimate source". He was under "significant duress" to repay the debt, she said, and so agreed to transport the drugs from Cork to Dublin.

Counsel said her client has no previous convictions, had not previously come to the attention of gardai and had a good work record since coming to Ireland. Ms McCarthy asked the court to find that the sentence of six years with the final year suspended was too high and a greater portion should have been suspended.

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham dismissed the appeal, saying Savcuk was not addicted to drugs, as is often the case among people committing similar offences. He was, the judge said, "someone who made a decision to get involved in drugs and such decisions have consequences."

Mr Justice Birmingham said he saw no error in principle in how Judge Ó Donnabháin approached sentencing and therefore said he would not interfere with the sentence imposed.

At the sentence hearing last year Detective Sergeant James O’Shea said investigating gardaí stopped a speeding car on the M8 motorway travelling towards Dublin on January 30, 2020. The detective's colleague got a strong smell of cannabis coming from the car and when they searched it they found three mobile phones, a walkie-talkie radio, e1,000 in cash and almost 1kg of cannabis in a bag with sausages.

Savcuk, who was the passenger in the car, received a longer sentence than the driver as Judge O'Donnabhain accepted garda evidence that Savcuk was the organiser of the crime. The court also heard, however, that Savcuks only got involved to pay off a non-drug related debt. He had borrowed money to set up his own business and was under pressure to repay. Ms McCarthy pointed out that when arrested he made admissions and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

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