05/08/2021

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Drug transporter caught in Kilkenny has sentence more than halved on appeal

He was originally sentenced to 12 years after being caught with almost half a million euro worth of cannabis

KILKENNY

Tran appealed the 12-year sentence in the High Court on the grounds of severity

A Vietnamese man who was caught by gardaí with almost half a million euro worth of cannabis has had his sentence more than halved by the Court of Appeal today.

Dung Tran (41) with a previous address at McWilliam Mews, Tallaght, Dublin 24, was sentenced to twelve years' imprisonment with the last two suspended by Kilkenny Circuit Court in May of last year. Tran pleaded guilty to the possession of €480,000 worth of cannabis when gardaí stopped him on February 6, 2019, after they observed a black Mercedes overtake them at a speed of around 160kph in the townland of Rathcash, Co Kilkenny.

Gardaí caught up with the car and pulled Tran over and noticed a strong smell of cannabis. They searched the car to find six black refuse sacks in the boot of the car stuffed with vacuum-packed parcels containing cannabis herb. 

Tran appealed the 12-year sentence on the grounds of severity. The grounds for appeal were that the trial judge erred by failing to depart from the presumptive minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years where it was submitted that there were exceptional circumstances.

It was submitted that the appellant's guilty plea, his co-operation with gardaí and his lack of any previous convictions in any jurisdiction were justification for the departure and that a headline sentence of 16 years, before mitigation, was excessive.

Barrister Mr Séamus Clarke SC, for the appellant, Tran, today told the High Court that his client lost his job before Christmas of 2019. Mr Clarke said that Tran arrived in Ireland at 18 and was an Irish citizen.  

Counsel said Tran had three children and that his wife works in a takeaway. Mr Clarke said Tran had no previous convictions, answered every question gardaí asked of him, pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and had not applied for bail since he went into custody on February 7, 2019. 

Responding, Mr David Humphries BL for the State said that while he accepted that the sentence appeared to be a high one, there was a deterrent element in passing it.  Mr Humphries described Tran as a 'businessman' in the case, in that he had no addictions, was not under duress to transport the cannabis and did so for financial gain.

Mr Clarke said Tran was not a businessman but that he had made a 'huge error' after losing his job and did it for €1,000.

Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, who sat with  Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, said that Tran was considered by gardaí to be at the "lower end" of a drug organisation. Ms Justice Kennedy noted, however, that drugs have a "significant impact on society as a whole" and that Tran was "fully cognisant" of his role.

Quashing the 12-year sentence, Ms Justice Kennedy identified eight years as an appropriate headline sentence and mitigated it by one-third to five years and four months, backdating it to February 2019, when Tran was first taken into custody.  

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