13 Aug 2022

Court of Appeal dismisses 'absurdity' that higher up drug dealers should face lesser sentences

Court of Appeal dismisses 'absurdity' that higher up drug dealers should face lesser sentences

The Court of Appeal has dismissed an argument by lawyers that could have resulted in drug dealers at the top of a criminal organisation facing shorter sentences than street dealers at the bottom of the chain.

The three-judge court said gardai are correct to value drugs based on how much they sell for at street level, even when dealing with criminals who are at a higher level and selling at a lower per kilogram amount.

Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly, delivering the written judgement on Thursday, said it would be an "absurdity" to suggest a person higher up the chain should face a lesser sentence if caught with the same amount of drugs as a street dealer.

The appeal arose out of the 2018 conviction of Stephen Glynn (41) of Mourne Road, Drimnagh, Dublin 12 who was found guilty under section 15A of the Misuse of Drugs Act for possession of a controlled drug in Drimnagh on November 10, 2015. 

Detective Sergeant Brian Roberts gave evidence that the drugs found, diamorphine, had a street value of €34,360. Det Sgt Roberts accepted that there are several markets in the supply of drugs and that for a dealer at the top end the same amount of diamorphine would be worth €10,000.

The Misuse of Drugs Act says that a person convicted of two offences of possession of more than €13,000 worth of drugs for sale or supply must be sentenced to a minimum of ten years. As this was Glynn's second offence under S.15A he was sentenced to that mandatory minimum but with a review after five years. Ms Justice Donnelly said it was accepted that Glynn was cooperative with gardai, made admissions, and was paid just €200 for handling the drugs.

Glynn's lawyers argued that the trial judge should have found that the value of the drugs was not greater than €13,000 and therefore the jury should not have been allowed to bring a conviction under S.15A.

Ms Justice Donnelly dismissed the appeal, saying the proper valuation of the drugs is what they would fetch at street level. She said this interpretation "avoids the absurdity" that a dealer higher up the chain would not be guilty of the more serious s.15A offence whereas the "end dealer" at street level would be guilty of the more serious offence.

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