A restaurateur jailed for importing cannabis worth €79,000 has had his appeal against conviction dismissed.
Patrick Scanlon (aged 55), from West Limerick but with an address on the Channel Island of Jersey, had pleaded not guilty at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court to the possession and importation of cannabis worth €79,000 from Spain to a house in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick on August 8, 2013.
He was found guilty by a jury following a three-week trial and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment by Mr Justice Caroll Moran on May 21, 2014.
The “centrepiece” of Scanlon's appeal against conviction, as submitted by his barrister Michael O'Higgins SC, was that his arrest was allegedly tainted by a period of illegal detention immediately before his arrest.
Mr O'Higgins had told the Court of Appeal that Scanlon was searched twice for drugs - once at the roadside and then at a garda station before he was arrested - and no new reasonable cause had been formed by the gardaí when he was searched for a second time in the garda station.
However, speaking on behalf of the three-judge court today, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said it was not unusual for a person to be detained on the roadside and brought to a station for a further search.
Citing examples submitted by prosecution counsel Anne-Marie Lawlor Bl, Mr Justice Sheehan said it depended on the garda operation and matters which arose during the operation.
He said the action could be described as a continuous single search and it did not matter that the process was described as a first search or second search nor did it matter that it was carried out by two different gardaí.
Accordingly, Mr Justice Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, dismissed the appeal.
In June, Mr O'Higgins, told the court that his client had approached a Mr Stephen Quinn about setting up a restaurant and he needed some space to store some bits and bobs he had ordered on eBay.
The prosecution's case was that Mr Quinn was “duped” by Scanlon into accepting delivery of a package containing cannabis, Mr O'Higgins said.
The package from Spain was intercepted, gardaí made a controlled delivery to the address and “encouraged” Mr Quinn to receive calls from Scanlon with a view to meeting him later, Mr O'Higgins claimed.
However, something unanticipated had occurred, Mr O'Higgins claimed, which “threw the (garda) operation into disarray”.
A red Volkswagen vehicle with Scanlon in the passenger seat was seen passing the house. It was suggested that Scanlon had put his hand over his face and the car drove on before being stopped some distance away.
From the gardaí's point of view, Mr O'Higgins claimed, the package had been accounted for, the householder had been accounted for but Scanlon was moving away from the house and the plan to “complete the loop” was now “in peril”.
His car was stopped, he was handcuffed and a full search of his person was carried out, Mr O'Higgins said.
Immediately after that, a detective garda arrived and decided to search Scanlon a second time back at the garda station.
However, no new reasonable cause or new suspicion had been formed for the purpose of a second search which resulted in a greater deprivation of Scanlon's liberty, Mr O'Higgins claimed.
He was subsequently released and arrested at the garda station, the court heard.
Mr O'Higgins claimed the second garda arrived with the intention of taking Scanlon back to the garda station despite being told the first search was negative.
It would appear the gardaí were not in a position to arrest Scanlon in relation to the cannabis back at the house or if they were, the decision was postponed, he claimed.
Scanlon will appeal his sentence at a later date.