Portlaoise District Court
A Polish national who gardaí have alleged is a serious flight due to seizure of €325,000 in drugs and €85,000 in cash at his home in Laois is set to be released on bail.
A judge made the decision because she said he may not stand trial for at least two years due to long delays of processing for forensic evidence and a shortage of judge needed to clear the Covid-19 backlog.
Judge Catherine Staines reached the conclusion on Saturday, May 8 that she must set bail conditions in Portlaoise District Court at a special sitting where a couple appeared on drug charges arising from raids and an investigation that involved the Criminal Assets Bureau.
Ireneusz Kiwak,(36) with an address at Stonehaven, Portarlington appeared before a special sitting of the court separately from his wife Malgorzata Wojciechowska (41) who resides at the same address. They were detained on Thursday, May 6 after a garda raid on their home in the Laois Offaly town.
Kiwak was represented by Mr Donough Molloy. Prior to the court hearing evidence of the circumstances of the arrest and charges from Gardaí, the solicitor initially made a submission to the court that his client was held in custody unlawfully.
He claimed that if somebody is charged after 5pm the accused needs to be brought to court as soon as is practical or before 12 noon if a sitting has to be arranged. Judge Staines examined the legislation under which Mr Molloy claimed that his client should not have been in custody. She said this would only apply if there was a scheduled sitting in Portlaoise. She said no judge was due to sit in Portlaoise on Saturday and it was a special sitting.
Mr Molloy contended that the accused could have been brought to the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin. However, Judge Staines pointed out that Dublin Courts are very busy with hundreds of cases every day and there was a likelihood that the accused would not have had his case heard.
Garda Detective Patrick O'Connell told the court that Gardaí were objecting Mr Kiwak's release on bail due the nature and seriousness of the offence with which he is charged and the length of sentence faced.
The Tullamore stationed garda told the court the accused was arrested under two alleged offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1997. The garda told the court that this relates to a seizure at his home at Stonehaven on May 6 this year.
Det O'Connell said 4.5 kgs of cocaine was found with a market value of €315,000 and 500 grams of cannabis worth €10,000. The garda told the court that this carries a prison sentence of 14 years.
Det O'Connell gave evidence that drugs were located in several areas of the family home where the accused lived with his wife and children. Gardaí showed pictures which they also claimes showed equipment required for drug mixing and distribution.
The garda also said in excess of €85,000 in cash was found in the house. The court also heard that a large amount of cocaine was also found in an Audi car.
Det O'Connell said Mr Kiwak was present with his family when garda entered the property on May 6. He claimed Mr Kiwak made admissions to Gardaí.
He said on the basis of the charges faced gardaí believe the accused is a flight risk and should be remanded in custody until trial. The garda told the court that the Mr Kiwak has the means to leave the country and has associates in other jurisdictions.
Mr Kiwak's solicitor said the special sitting was not the day for the hearing of the case. He asked if the gardaí had any evidence associates with other juristictions. Garda O'Donnell replied that his direct evidence the accused had associates who are in prison in a foreign jurisdiction with whom he has associated within Ireland.
Mr Molloy said his client had lived in Ireland for over 15 years and contended that has significant ties to Ireland including a child. He also highlighted that the existence of the European arrest warrant system and added that the accused had handed his passport to gardaí.
Det O'Connell said however that the accused has family back in Poland. He added that Mr Kiwak could flee to any country. He said no bail conditions would satisfy gardaí.
Mr Molloy also asked the garda about when he believed the case against his client would conclude.
Det O'Connell said the garda would have completed its element of the prosecution file within eight weeks but that he and his colleagues were relying on outside agencies for forensic reports. He could not give an estimate as to how long this would take to complete. Mr Molloy contended that realistically it would take two years.
In a further submission to the court, Mr Molloy there are two key factors when deciding on bail one of which was whether the defendant was likely to stand trial and secondly the risk that witnesses would be interfered with.
He said there is no reference in the garda's evidence of interference with witnesses. He further argued that there is no evidence 'whatsoever' that his client would not stand trial. He said the court should not rely on a 'bland assertion' that due to the seriousness of the charges, Mr Kiwak would leave the country.
Mr Molloy said his client would comply with any conditions imposed by the court. He argued that when this is added to the likely timeframe of two years before the case is heard, he said that bail should be granted.
Judge Staines granted bail because of delays in analysing drugs and the backlog in cases caused by Covid-19 and a related shortage of judges to clear the lists.
In reaching her decision she acknowledged that the accused is before the court on 'extremely serious charges' but she said the constitution gives him a presumption of innocence. She added that he had no previous record. She agreed with Mr Molloy about the length of time it would take for the case to come to court.
"The reality is that because of the delay in the forensic science laboratory in issuing certificates, there are huge delays in the gardaí getting DPP directions," she said.
The judge said the DPP will not direct in drugs cases until the evidence has been analysed. She said delays have emerged n her experienced in Laois and she believe the similar issue is arising across the country.
She said trial dates will also have to be fixed and there are huge delays in trials and there is clearly a need for extra judges to clear that backlog.
"The reality is that Mr Kiwak could be custody for up to two years in a situation where he does have a presumption of innocence," she said.
She said stringent bail would be fixed. He was required to lodge €20,000 of independent surety or cash in lieu, surrender passport, provide a phone number to be contactable at all times. He must sign on daily at Portlaoise Garda Station between 9am and 9pm with a curfew of 10pm to 8am.
Judge Staines conceded to a request from Garda Inspector Barry Collins that Gardaí be allowed to investigate the providence of the €20,000 if cash is lodge as part of meeting the conditions of bail.
Judge Staines remanded the accused to Cloverhill Prison to appear in Cloverhill District Court on Thursday, May 13 because Mr Molloy said his client would not be in a position to meet the requirements on the day of the hearing.
An interpreter was not required.
In the case of Ms Wojciechowska, Det O'Connell told the court that he arrested her on Friday, May 7 on four charges. The alleged offences relate to possession and supply of cannabis and cocaine. She made no reply when cautioned.
Gardaí consented to the conditions of bail as agreed with the woman through her solicitor Aisling Maloney. A surety was not requested.
The judge fixed bail on the condition that the accused reside at Stonehaven, Portarlington and sign on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Tullamore Garda Station between the hours of 9am and 1pm. She was required to provide a contact number to Det O'Connell and be contactable 24 hours a day. A curfew of 10pm to 6pm was also imposed.
Insp Collins confirmed that Ms Wojciechowska has surrendered her passport. The judge ordered that she not apply for a new passport.
Judge Staines adjourned the matter to July 15 due to the delay in obtaining forensic certificates.
The judge delayed the granting of free legal aid to Ms Wojciechowska. Judge Staines agreed with Det O'Connell said the appropriate documentation should be presented to the court that the accused is on a weekly PUP payment of €203 a week.
Judge Staines told Ms Moran that she wanted statutory evidence that her client was telling the truth. If this is provided she said she would backdate the legal aid.
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