A Dublin man who claimed he had stolen a bag he was found carrying containing over €50,000 of cocaine has been jailed for four and a half years.
Thomas O’Brien (49) was found by gardai with the drugs after they responded to a call about him banging on the windows of a house.
He was intoxicated and acting erratically.
O’Brien, of Smithfield Square, Dublin 7 pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of cocaine for sale or supply at Con Colbert Road, Dublin 8 on May 1, 2018.
O’Brien has 63 previous convictions, mainly for public order offences, but also including manslaughter in 1998 for which he received a five year sentence, robbery, burglary and hijacking.
Judge Martin Nolan said O’Brien had brought himself to the attention of the gardai on the night and seemed to have been intoxicated on drink or drugs.
He said O’Brien was either carrying the drugs for third parties or else, by his own explanation, had stolen the bag for his own purposes and was making his getaway.
He noted in sentencing that O’Brien had been confused on the night, “but not so confused as not to recognise an opportunity, it might be an opportunity he regrets taking but he took it.”
He said it was rather serious to steal drugs from certain parties so he could believe that O’Brien was not exercising the best judgement on the night in question.
He noted that the presumptive minimum sentence for this offence was ten years imprisonment but said the general nature of the case and the plea allowed him to depart from that.
He said O’Brien’s remorse offered some hope of rehabilitation.
Judge Nolan imposed a four and half year sentence of imprisonment.
Garda Barry Mulvey told Pieter Le Vert BL, prosecuting, that gardai enroute to a call about a man banging on a window in Ballyfermot encountered O’Brien on the Con Colbert Road carrying a Dunnes Store’s bag.
He was acting erratically and said he was going to Heuston Station.
Gardai continued to Ballyfermot where they spoke to the person who had made the call.
The woman told them her ex-partner, O’Brien, had been banging on her window. Gardai returned to the Con Colbert Road and spoke to O’Brien, who they observed throwing away a small bag.
O’Brien was detained for a drug search and a small amount of cannabis resin was found in his trouser pocket.
On searching the Dunnes Stores bag gardai found blocks of cocaine covered in duct tape, a knife, three weighing scales, plastic bagging, spoons, scissors and gloves.
They also found a suspected drugs tick list. The drugs were analysed and valued at €57,435.
He told gardai he had picked up the drugs in Smithfield that night, near the Bridewell garda station, and said that his current and former partners had nothing to do with the drugs. He apologised for “being stupid” and “being a gilly.”
Gda Mulvey agreed with Maurice Coffey SC, defending, that O’Brien was not on the garda radar as a drug dealer.
Mr Coffey said O’Brien had written a letter which was before the court saying he had in effect “stolen” the items by opportunistically taking the drugs of another person.
Gda Mulvey agreed O’Brien had given different accounts to gardai of what happened and he could not say which was true and which was not.
Mr Coffey told Judge Nolan that it was O’Brien’s case that he had been in hospital the night before due to an overdose, discharged himself and then opportunistically taken the bag when he came across it.
He said O’Brien’s account was he was “overwhelmed” on discovering what was inside.
Mr Coffey said O’Brien has struggled with drink and drugs but has changed in the last few years and disassociated with people he had been hanging around with. He said he had gone “off the rails” a little at the time of the offence and was extremely intoxicated.
He said O’Brien is remorseful and feels he has ruined his life due to this offence, having worked to put his life in order.
He said it was an opportunistic offence and he did not realise the value of the drugs.
He submitted O’Brien was not sober enough on the night to be transacting in a businesslike way,
Mr Coffey also asked the court to take into account it was a “Covid plea” with the sentence to be served during the Covid period.