Jail unwarranted, says teen who sold killer drug

A 17-year-old who sold the psychoactive drug U47700 in a case where a teenager died in Cork in January felt that his crime did not warrant a jail term.

The teen revealed this to his probation officer.

At the sentencing hearing yesterday at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Gerard O’Brien said: “I am extremely concerned about the fact that the defendant [who cannot be named as he is a juvenile] spoke to the probation officer and felt the sale of this drug did not warrant a prison sentence.”

Defence senior counsel James O’Mahony said: “Well judge, lack of maturity.”

Mr O’Mahony said the accused was anxious to put the case behind him and get on with his life. The probation report also stated that he had shown genuine remorse and was co-operating with everything asked of him in detention. Mr O’Mahony SC said there was a glowing report on the accused from Oberstown.

The case arose out of the death of Michael Cornacchia, 16, who was found unconscious by his mother in his bedroom at their terraced home in Deerpark, Cork City.

He was pronounced dead at the scene by a local doctor. It was reported at the time that the death may have been linked to the synthetic drug powder U47700.

The charge, to which the 17-year-old defendant pleaded guilty, stated that, on January 16 of this year, he had at a location in Cork City for sale or supply a psychoactive substance, namely U47700, to another person knowing or being reckless as to whether that substance was being acquired for human consumption. 

This charge was brought contrary to Section 3 of the Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010.

The second charge was of possessing cocaine contrary to the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The teen will continue to serve a sentence of detention in Oberstown until February on unrelated district court charges. Judge O’Brien yesterday remanded him on bail on the indictable charge until February 1, 2018. Though he granted bail he will be in custody anyway on the other matters.

Judge O’Brien said of the accused: “He comes before the court as a result of the death of a poor unfortunate child who died as a result of taking this substance.”

The judge said he was concerned about the serious escalation in the defendant’s criminality catapulting him into the circuit criminal court at the age of 17.

Judge O’Brien said he could not finalise sentencing when the probation report described a lack of insight, a high risk of reoffending, and where there was a lack of a structured programme for his release. Sentencing was adjourned until February for those reasons.

Detective Garda Darragh Murray said the late Michael Cornacchia was found unconscious by his mother on January 16.

“Gardaí and the emergency services called at 10 am,” the garda said.

A witness, who was a friend of the deceased, was present and assisted the garda investigation. He and the deceased had taken a substance which they believed was cocaine. They had snorted two or three lines of it from a DVD disc which was recovered at the scene and sent for forensic examination.

Traces of U47700 drug were confirmed. The detective said it was commonly referred to as U4 and was seven and a half times stronger than morphine.

The previous night, the deceased and his friend had decided to get cocaine and they made contact with the defendant through Facebook and met him to buy an eighth of an ounce, or 3.5g, of cocaine.

The defendant was soon identified and questioned. He told gardaí he believed what he had sold was cocaine and was not aware of it being anything else.

Det Garda Murray said he could not say if this was true or not.


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