Parents pay price for drug debts of children, says judge

A judge has warned that drug users are putting their families in danger due to the drug debts they build up, as he sentenced a man to a month in prison for possession of cocaine.

Judge James McNulty said families, and in particular parents, often paid a real price because of debts built up by their children, often facing the threat of violence if that money was not repaid. He made his comments in the case of Jack McCarthy, aged 24, of Creagh Beg in Lisavaird near Clonakilty, Co Cork.

McCarthy had been “a model student”, the court was told, and had twice won student of the year. However, he had opted not to go to college when the opportunity arose to run a bar. He pleaded guilty on April 2 to the charge of possessing cocaine on July 20, 2018.

The court was told that, at 8.35pm that day, gardaí visited a premises at The Pike near Clonakilty under warrant and that McCarthy was present, along with his girlfriend. During the search, he handed gardaí 1g of cocaine that he had in his wallet, as well as a spoon and a plastic bag.

His solicitor, Conrad Murphy, said that this was his first conviction. Mr Murphy also said his client had been free of drugs since last August and deserved credit for turning his life around. However, Judge McNulty said it was “not a trivial matter” and referred to the comprehensive probation report presented to court which outlined how McCarthy had been running the bar, and dealing in and consuming drugs.

The judge referred to the stress this has caused and how his family was supporting him and “carrying the financial burden”.

“Reading between the lines, they paid his debts,” said the judge.

“Something he is not proud of,” said Mr Murphy.

“Thousands of people are in that position,” said Judge McNulty. “When we are using cocaine, we are supporting a nefarious business activity or getting our parents to do it for us, not by choice but under threat, I am sure, of serious violence. These are sadly the facts of individuals and families and teenagers experiencing drug debts and the criminal collection of drug debts.”

Mr Murphy indicated that his client would appeal the 30-day sentence and recognisance of €1,000 was fixed, with no cash required.

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