Single mother's sentence for possession of drugs to be suspended

A single mother who agreed to pick up a drugs package from her local An Post sorting office for €200 has been given a six-year sentence which will be suspended from December on strict conditions.

Joanne Flynn (30) of Lindisfarne Green, Clondalkin had never come to garda attention before when she agreed to collect the parcel containing €67,500 worth of heroin on March 27, 2006.

Flynn pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of the drugs for sale or supply.

Judge Frank O’Donnell had remanded her in custody in May this year for sentence and he has suspended the balance of the sentence as of December 15 this year, when he ordered that she should be released from prison.

He said, having regard to Flynn’s cooperation with gardaí, her early guilty plea and particularly the evidence of Detective Sergeant Sean Hogan, who said she was a vulnerable person and "a target for serious criminals", Judge O’Donnell said it would be unjust and inappropriate to impose the presumptive minimum sentence of 10 years.

Judge O’Donnell said it was "a pathetic case" and that Flynn had found herself in a difficult situation. He added that he had paid particular attention to documents detailing the various bills and debts she had at the time of the offence.

Det Sgt Hogan agreed with defence counsel, Ms Isobel Kennedy SC, that Flynn was a "decent girl" from a good background whose primary concern was her eight-year-old son.

He accepted that she didn’t "feature on the rung of any ladder in relation to the drugs industry" and that gardai would consider her a vulnerable person and therefore a target for serious criminals.

Det Sgt Hogan further accepted she was used as a courier and was unlikely to come before the courts again.

Ms Kennedy told Judge O’Donnell that Flynn was devastated by the potential loss of her son.

She said that at the time of her arrest Flynn had financial difficulties which she had found "overwhelming" and "difficult to cope with".

Ms Kennedy said this rendered her very vulnerable to people who then preyed upon her. She acknowledged that Flynn’s financial circumstances were no excuse for getting involved in this offence but offered it as a way of an explanation.

Ms Kennedy said her client’s father, who had been the principal homemaker, died when she was 11 years old.

Det Sgt Hogan told prosecuting counsel, Mr Remy Farrell BL, that the investigative branch of An Post contacted gardaí after staff at the Clondalkin sorting office thought Flynn was acting suspiciously when she came to collect a parcel there.

She had tried to collect an undelivered package and had the tracking bar code with her but staff found her evasive when they questioned her in relation to it.

Det Sgt Hogan said they refused to hand over the package and alerted head office.

A surveillance operation was launched after Flynn returned four days later to try again to collect the package. Staff didn’t hand it over and called gardai who observed Flynn returning a third time when she took the package after signing for it.

Det Sgt Hogan said she was arrested shortly after leaving the sorting office. She made full admission and told gardaí she had been approached by another person to collect this package and had been paid €200 to do so.

She was an unemployed single parent at the time. She said she received social welfare but was only left with €50 per week to live on after she paid household bills and a credit union loan.

Flynn told gardaí that she knew the package would contain drugs and she thought it had come from Belgium but she said she was under the impression that it would contain cannabis rather than heroin.

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