DEATH arising from taking ecstasy has caused a judge in Cork to take a different view on the sentencing of people caught with this drug.
Judge Olann Kelleher said that deaths due to MDMA made it necessary to take a different approach to those caught with this drug for their own use.
Three young men came before Cork District Court today having pleaded guilty to possession of small amounts of the drug for their own use.
For several years many young people with no previous criminal convictions were given the benefit of a dismissal under the Probation of Offenders Act once they made a payment to charity – often in the region of €200 to €300 and sometimes more.
Judge Kelleher cited recent fatalities resulting from taking MDMA and said he had to change his approach to sentencing.
There was extensive media coverage in relation to the death last month of 19-year-old Jack Downey from Clonmel, County Tipperary, who fell ill and died after ingesting the substance while attending the Indiependence music festival in County Cork.
Gardaí also warned festival-goers attending Electric Picnic recently of a batch of highly potent MDMA being brought to the festival by dealers.
Three young men, who had no criminal convictions, admitted having MDMA for their own use today.
“It is too serious. There were deaths this Summer. People who died were using this drug. It is in a different league to cannabis,” Judge Kelleher said.
In each case, he directed the young men to pay sums of €750 to €850 to the Cork Local Drug & Alcohol Task Force and to attend at this organisation in the next six weeks.
The judge said the defendants must comply with directions to attend for a drugs education programme within this period.
The aims of the task force, to which the defendants were referred include the provision of relevant up-to-date information about the effects of substance misuse and the raising of awareness at local and national level of the issues related to drug misuse and to influence policy based on local experience.
In all cases, solicitors for the young men said the defendants were extremely anxious to avoid a drugs possession conviction because of the impact it would have their future employment and ability to travel.
Judge Kelleher said the accused would avoid convictions on payment of the amounts of at least €750 and confirmation that they had attended for the relevant programmes.