Court dismisses appeal from man who claimed he innocently touched bag of cannabis

Court dismisses appeal from man who claimed he innocently touched bag of cannabis

A Dublin man has failed in his appeal against conviction for possession of cannabis on grounds that he may have touched the bag of drugs innocently.

Gary Hanley (aged 26) of North Great Clarence Street, Dublin 1, had pleaded not guilty to possessing five bars of cannabis resin for sale or supply at Alfie Byrne apartment complex on April 10, 2009.

He was found guilty by a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court and sentenced to six years imprisonment with the final two suspended by Judge Patricia Ryan on March 16, 2013.

Hanley failed in his appeal against conviction today in the Court of Appeal on the grounds that the case should have been withdrawn from the jury and there was no case to answer.

Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said a garda arrived at Alfie Byrne apartment complex on the date in question and searched a large wheelie bin.

Hanley and others were present some 10 -15 metres away.

A blue hold-all bag with a closed zip was found in the wheelie bin.

Underneath a yellow Dunnes Stores bag was a clear plastic bag that was either torn or cut open and inside were found five bars of cannabis resin.

A partial forefinger mark, matching Hanley's fingerprints, was found on the tear on the bag.

There was no corresponding thumb print and the only indication was that the bag had been ripped prior to the finger mark being made.

The two strands of circumstantial evidence against Hanley were the finger print on the inside of the flap on the plastic bag and his proximity to the wheelie bin.

It was submitted by counsel for Hanley, Séamus Clarke BL, that the evidence lead to a rational hypothesis whereby the outside layer over the drugs could have been touched by Hanley in an innocent manner while in the wheelie bin.

He may have just been looking at what was inside, Mr Clarke submitted.

Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said the evidence had established the fingerprint came into contact with the sealed bag at the time the cannabis was there and because it was in clear plastic there was no need to open the flap to see what was inside.

Hanley's proximity to the bin was supporting evidence although not very strong, the judge said.

Given the value of the drugs it was highly unlikely to have been there for any length of time and equally highly unlikely it was not being protected.

Circumstantial evidence was of such weight that the judge was entitled and very properly allowed the matter to go to the jury, he said.

Accordingly, Mr Justice Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards, dismissed the appeal.


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