Over €50,000 worth of cocaine was seized from a van at a property in Ballincollig and now a 50-year-old man has been given a fully suspended five-year sentence.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said he could depart from the mandatory minimum sentence of ten years for such a crime in light of what he described as the singular and unusual facts of this case involving Arthur Ward of An Caisleán Close, Ballincollig, County Cork.
The judge noted from the evidence of Detective Garda Declan Keane that another person, not before the court, was the subject of the surveillance operation that uncovered the stash of drugs.
“The defendant was not on the garda radar and had no connection with drugs or drug-dealing. He had some connection with the third party and arrived on the scene in the van.
“When arrested he fully admitted what happened and cooperated. He was out of his depth. The circumstances were that the drugs never left his van. He did not exercise a great degree of control over the package. It was not taken into his home. It was not given any particular attention.
“Mr Barnes (defence barrister Ronan Barnes) makes the case that I should go further than simply not applying the ten-year minimum and that I should view the facts as wholly exceptional and impose a non-custodial sentence.
“I think in this case there are thoroughly unusual facts.
“He has no criminal record, he has no association with drugs. He undertook a series of urinalysis,” the judge said.
In all the circumstances he said that a five-year suspended sentence was appropriate.
That was on the charge of having cocaine on July 17, 2020 for the purpose of sale or supply at a time when its street value exceeded €13,000.
Detective Garda Declan Keane said the drugs were detected as part of an operation where they had surveillance on another individual. Arthur Ward went to a premises in Ballincollig and went into the property for half an hour. By the time he drove away from the property a package had been placed in his vehicle.
Gardaí called to his home soon afterwards to conduct a search and he admitted that there was a package in his vehicle. It was three-quarters of a kilo of cocaine with a street value of €52,000.
Defence barrister, Ronan Barnes, stressed, “He was not the target of this operation. He has no previous convictions.”
Det. Garda Keane agreed with the suggestion that the accused was unlikely to face court proceedings again in the future. The detective said of Arthur Ward, “He was out of his depth. He was asked to hold the package and for whatever reasons he decided to do that.”
Mr Barnes BL said the accused was in full time employment and had had given clear urinalysis showing he was clear of drugs since. Mr Barnes accepted he was asking a lot but suggested that it was a suitable case for a fully suspended sentence.