A man who was transporting almost €50,000 worth of drugs when he was stopped by gardaí has been given a suspended prison sentence at Kilkenny Circuit Court.
He has been warned to ‘stay away from bad people’ if he wants to retain his liberty.
The cocaine was on its way from Dublin to Waterford when intercepted.
Conor Behan, Lisavira, Annestown Road, Waterford, pleaded guilty to three charges — illegal possession of drugs and two charges of having drugs for sale or supply.
The court heard that Mr Behan was stopped by gardaí who were conducting a Covid-19 checkpoint at Grannagh Junction Roundabout on April 6, 2020, at 11.30pm. His demeanour was nervous and evasive, with a garda describing Mr Behan as ‘shaking like a leaf’.
Mr Behan’s vehicle was searched and gardaí found two large bags of cocaine under the passenger seat. One was mostly powder, the other mostly rock form. A forensic report confirmed both were cocaine.
The first bag contained 460.5g of cocaine, valued at €32,235. The street value of the second bag was €17,458 for the 249.4g of cocaine. The total value was €49,700.
Mr Behan was brought to Waterford Garda Station. He was ‘not particularly forthcoming’ in his first interview, but in subsequent interviews made full admissions to gardaí.
Mr Behan told gardaí he was ‘dropping off’ the drugs and not selling it. He was working under the direction of other people, who he was in fear of.
He told gardaí he drove to Clondalkin in Dublin and parked outside a pub. He left the car to get a bag of chips and when he came back the drugs were in the car.
He didn’t know the person who put them there. He had met the person who asked him to do this before, but it was dark and he didn’t see him.
Mr Behan said he had done this twice.
Asked if he did this for financial gain Mr Behan said he was paid €120.
From a farming background, the court heard Mr Behan is a very hard working individual with no previous convictions.
His defence barrister said Mr Behan was a vulnerable person and put under pressure. Gardaí agreed he was a ‘naive individual’.
The barrister said Mr Behan was threatened and tried to get out of doing this but he felt ‘caught’ and ‘afraid.’
Communication between Mr Behan and the drug gang was by phone and he was to contact them after he crossed the bridge in Waterford to arrange drop off.
The barrister said Mr Behan was an ‘amateur’ and a garda agreed that when stopped the defendant was ‘shaking like a leaf’.
Two ‘glowing’ references from employers were handed in to court.
Garda Carthy told the court it was his view Mr Behan got involved with the wrong group of people who identified his naivety and took advantage of him. The garda said he does not believe the young man will come to garda attention for drugs again.
Judge James McCourt heard that Mr Behan is 22 and comes from a good family background. They are shocked and upset by this. He made a terrible mistake but has turned his life around. He has cut off negative peer influences and has no intention of being before the courts again. His defence barrister said Mr Behan is a young man who deserves an opportunity to move forward with his life.
Judge McCourt said he accepted Mr Behan’s remorse and it was not lost on him that he was under significant duress. Unfortunately, he said, the purveyors of illegal drugs prey on the vulnerable and Mr Behan was a classic case.
That he was under duress was beyond doubt, how he reacted to that was what got him in trouble, the judge said.
Judge McCourt sentenced Mr Behan to six years imprisonment for having drugs for sale or supply, but suspended that in its entirety. He said he was impressed with Mr Behan’s efforts to turn his life around and distance himself from bad company which was clearly connected to ever worse company.
The second charge of having drugs for sale or supply and the charge of drug possession were taken into consideration.
Judge McCourt said he wanted Mr Behan kept on a tight lead for several years to ‘keep him on the straight and narrow’ and bound him to the peace for five years, on his own bond of €2,000.
“Stay away from bad people and retain your liberty,” Judge McCourt told Mr Behan.
A destruction order was issued for the drugs.
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