One of Cork's main heroin dealers has sentence reduced as appeal court hears of illness

He was on bail when he was found with more than €20K of the drug at his home
One of Cork's main heroin dealers has sentence reduced as appeal court hears of illness

John O'Leary (52) of Churchfield Garden, Churchfield, Cork, was convicted of possession of the drugs for sale or supply at his then address at Knapp's Square, Redmond Street, Cork in December 2020.

ONE of Cork's main heroin dealers, who was on bail when he was found with more than €20K of the drug at his home, has had his sentence reduced after the Court of Appeal heard he is seriously ill with cancer.

John O'Leary (52) of Churchfield Garden, Churchfield, Cork, was convicted of possession of the drugs for sale or supply at his then address at Knapp's Square, Redmond Street, Cork in December 2020.

Around €22K worth of heroin, a sum of €1,665 and electronic scales were discovered alongside O'Leary, who was lying in bed, when gardaí searched the premises.

He was sentenced to nine years' imprisonment by Judge Brian O'Callaghan at Cork Circuit Criminal Court in June 2021. Judge O'Callaghan suspended the final two years of the sentence and ordered that O'Leary be supervised by the probation service for three years upon his release.

Ms Karen Stewart BL said her client was appealing against the severity of that sentence.

Ms Stewart said her client had never been before the Circuit Court in Cork in his life but he did have a sale or supply conviction from the District Court level.

Ms Stewart said O'Leary had a drug debt of €20K at the time and that he was a chronic heroin addict of 15 years.

She said O'Leary pleaded guilty to possession of diamorphine contrary to Section 15 A of the Misuse of Drugs Act on June 16, 2021.

GUILTY PLEA

She said the pre-mitigation headline sentence of 12 years was "very harsh" for her client who had pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity.

However, Mr Justice John Edwards said O'Leary also admitted to gardaí that he had been drug-dealing in Cork for 10 years. "It's not pennies," said Mr Justice Edwards, who added that O'Leary was probably dealing in drugs "every day" during that 10-year period.

Ms Stewart said her client had admitted his history to gardaí, had tried rehabilitation for his addiction and was undergoing cancer treatment.

Mr Justice Edwards said O'Leary was "not at a low level" and noted the appellant had told gardaí that he would return from Dublin every two or three weeks with heroin valued anywhere between €35K and €140K.

In allowing the appeal, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said that O'Leary had made a "full admission" to gardaí but noted that he was on bail for a separate matter when caught "red-handed" by gardaí.

Mr Justice McCarthy noted O'Leary had a young family, the youngest of whom was 16-years-old.

Mr Justice McCarthy said that the sentencing judge erred in identifying 12 years as a headline sentence, which he said was "excessive". He said the court would quash O'Leary's sentence and re-sentence him under the headline sentence of nine years. He then sentenced O'Leary to seven years' imprisonment with the final year suspended for two years, noting O'Leary's "seriously ill health" and personal circumstances.

When being sentenced, Judge O'Callaghan said of O'Leary: “He and his colleagues are responsible for destroying the lives of people and their families in Cork. People are in graveyards because of his actions."

That court was told by Detective Garda Jerome Murphy that the Cork City Divisional Drugs Unit regarded him as one of the "main suppliers of heroin in Cork City in recent years”.

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