By Fiachra Gallagher
A mother-of-four who attempted to smuggle heroin and a mobile phone into Mountjoy Prison has received at fully suspended sentence.
Natalie McDonnell (31) was in the visiting room of the prison when officers spotted her handing off the package to her then-partner, an inmate at Mountjoy.
Upon seizure, the package was found to contain heroin to the value of approximately €6,700. The package also held a small amount of sleeping tablets.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that McDonnell was warned that her home would be burnt down and her partner “cut up” if she did not take the package.
McDonnell, with an address at Bride St, Dublin 8, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to attempting to convey controlled substances, namely heroin and Zopiclone tablets, and a mobile phone into a prison on 29 January, 2020.
Garda John Costigan, of Mountjoy Garda Station, told Lisa Dempsey BL, prosecuting, that prison officers observed McDonnell passing a package to her partner during a supervised visiting session.
A skirmish ensued between the prison officers and the inmate in question, before the package was handed back to McDonnell, when she proceeded to hide the package under her skirt.
On arrival of a female prison officer, the package was seized and the accused woman was arrested.
The court heard that McDonnell told gardai she had been “threatened” after she received a phone call ordering her to courier the package into the prison.
McDonnell said in statement to gardai that she had collected the package from a man in the Christchurch area of inner-city, and was warned that her home would be burnt down and her partner “cut up” if she did not take the package.
McDonnell later admitted that she “should have” gone to the gardai, but feared for her family.
Keith Spencer BL, defending, told the court that it was “very commendable” that his client had no previous criminal convictions despite her difficult upbringing, which was impacted by drug and alcohol abuse within her family.
Judge Melanie Greally said that she would take into account the defendant’s age, her young family and difficulties pertaining to her upbringing in sentencing.
Judge Greally sentenced McDonnell to two years imprisonment, but fully suspended the sentence with strict conditions attached.