Dealer's sentence halved due to 'extraordinary effect' of son's death

A Limerick drug dealer has had his 10-year sentence for amphetamine possession halved following an "exceptional" appeal hearing.

Sean Hanley (aged 50) was caught by gardaí with 3kg of amphetamines in Mountrath, Co Laois in December 2004.

Hanley was a passenger in a car that was blocked by the Garda National Drug Unit following a chase, but remained uncooperative under questioning despite having been seen throwing the drugs from the car.

He pleaded not guilty to possession of drugs for sale or supply but was sentenced to 10 years in prison having been convicted by a Portlaoise Circuit Court jury in June 2008.

The Court of Criminal Appeal today ruled that Hanley’s appeal was “clearly an exceptional case” and that the violent death of his son had an “extraordinary effect” on his psyche.

The CCA of Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan presiding, sitting with Mr Justice Michael Hanna and Mr Justice Declan Budd, said that Hanley’s more serious offending could be “sourced” to the stabbing to death of Brian Hanley in August 2001.

Mr Justice Hanna said that it was quite possible that sending Hanley to jail for such a long period “may affect his life-span”.

Mr Hanna said that Hanley’s age had to be taken in to account and that it was clear that psychological trauma had affected his physical condition.

The three-judge court ruled that a second charge of possession of drugs for sale or supply should be taken it to account and that a sentence of five years imprisonment be substituted for the existing 10-year term.

Counsel for the applicant, Mr Alan Toal BL, had told the court that there were exceptional and specific circumstances by which the sentencing judge could have departed from mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years imposed on Hanley.

Mr Toal said that as Hanley was understood to have suffered intense psychological pain and to be at high risk of suicide, it was remarkable he had been deemed fit to stand trial.

The court earlier rejected an attempt by Hanley to have his conviction overturned for the same offence.

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