Grandmother faces jail term on drugs charge

A grandmother has been sentenced to four months in jail after being convicted of possessing drugs for sale or supply — her car and handbag were searched when a garda in the public office of the local garda station smelt cannabis.

Julie Burke, aged 43, of 11 Dromleigh in Bantry, Co Cork, had pleaded guilty at Bantry District Court in March to possession of cannabis but had denied a charge of possession with intent to sell or supply the drug.

At that court sitting, Garda Louise Kingston said she was walking through the public office at Bantry Garda Station at 2.45pm on Dec 18 last when she smelled what she believed was cannabis.

Garda Kingston said Ms Burke, who is mother to seven children and a grandmother to two, was sitting there with her handbag. Garda Kingston asked Ms Burke if she would consent to a search. That was negative and the garda asked Ms Burke if she had driven to the station. On hearing she had the garda asked to search the car.

The court heard that on opening the glove compartment of the car a see-through bag containing what later turned out to be cannabis weed worth €700 fell out. A later search of Ms Burke’s handbag showed she had €885 in her possession.

Under interview later she said the drugs were for her own personal use and that she had recently taken out a loan with the local credit union.

Her solicitor, Flor Murphy, said that while under interview Ms Burke mentioned friends coming around, she never said she supplied them with drugs. He also said a letter from the credit union proved the loan application the previous month for €1,500.

However, Judge James McNulty convicted her, saying it was not credible that this grandmother with seven children and two grandchildren had this amount of cannabis for her personal use. Today he sentenced her to four months in prison, saying: “I have no doubt that Julie Ann was involved in the sale and supply of drugs locally.”

Her solicitor, Flor Murphy, said his client has since stopped taking cannabis and is aware of its ill effects, but the judge said a custodial sentence could not be avoided.

An appeal was lodged on her own bail bond of €1000 and Ms Burke also paid a €300 fine for simple possession of cannabis having pleaded guilty to that charge in March.

He remanded Ms Burke, who had some previous convictions for minor road traffic matters and two historical theft convictions, on continuing bail until May 23 for penalty and also convicted her on the simple possession charge, fining her €300.

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