Fisherman who escaped Cork sinking tragedy jailed on drugs offences

A former skipper who was caught up in a sinking tragedy has been jailed for two-and-a-half years for possessing over €100,000-worth of cocaine and cannabis, reports Isabel Hayes.

Peter Colleran (33) became addicted to drugs after he narrowly escaped being on a fishing trawler that sank off Mine Head in 2007, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.

Colleran, of no fixed abode but originally from Cork, pleaded guilty to possessing cocaine and cannabis with a combined street value of €105,372 at City West Storage in Tallaght, Dublin on October 21, 2016.

Handing down a five-year sentence with the final two-and-a-half years suspended, Judge Karen O’Connor said she accepted Colleran became destitute and drug-addicted in the wake of the sinking tragedy.

She noted Colleran, who has been in custody since the offence, was an enhanced prisoner and she said she had rarely seen reports so positive. She said he had addressed his addiction issues and was hopeful of moving on with his life post-release.

Garda Paul Martin previously told Ronan Kennedy SC, prosecuting, that gardaí and other state agencies were carrying out a search at the site in Tallaght on the day in question when Colleran drove into the area.

When questioned about his purpose for being there, Colleran told them he was “buying biscuits”. He had €1000 on his person and gardaí immediately “smelled a rat”, the court heard.

When Colleran walked back to his car to produce identification, he attempted to throw away a set of keys which were then seized by gardaí. The keys were for a container which, when opened, was found to contain cannabis, cocaine and drug-making equipment.

The cocaine had a street value of €97,357 while the cannabis was worth €8015, the court heard.

Colleran was interviewed by gardaí six times before he made admissions. He told gardaí he used to work at sea and was a skipper, but that he had developed a cocaine and gambling addiction six years previously.

He said he was effectively destitute and was sleeping in his car, had massive drug debts and was “put to work” mixing the drugs in order to pay back the money he owed.

He told gardaí he got involved in drugs in the wake of a tragedy at sea in 2007. “I threw my career out the window,” he said. He has a small number of previous convictions for public order offences.

Michael Bowman SC, defending, said Colleran had been due to work on the Honeydew II on the day it sank in storms off the south east coast in January 2007. His captain and mentor was among those who died that day and Colleran struggled with grief in the aftermath of the tragedy.

The court heard Colleran didn’t want to be a burden to his family when he became homeless. He was the youngest child of a respected family, who were in court to support him.

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