A 16-year-old boy who was caught in the Dublin Children's Courthouse with eight deals of heroin hidden in his boxer shorts has been given a six-month sentence.
He is the first boy his age to be detained under a new sentencing regime and will be held at the Trinity House detention centre in north Co. Dublin.
The government announced in April that from the start of this month 16-year-old boys would no longer sentenced to terms in St Patrick's Institution which also holds adult male prisoners aged from 18 to 21.
St Patrick's Institution in Dublin has been criticised as being an inappropriate place of detention for minors.
The teen, who cannot be identified because he is a minor, had pleaded guilty to possessing €160 worth of heroin for the purposes of sale or supply to another. The drugs were seized from him at the courthouse, in Smithfield, in north inner city Dublin, on January 10 last.
Garda Kelly Finnegan had told Judge Bryan Smyth that she had been on duty at the courthouse when the boy came in thinking that he had a case on that day. However, he was not on the court's list and was told to leave.
“I believed he was acting suspiciously, I observed him pass something small to another male,” she said. The second youth swallowed the object handed to him.
The boy, who has prior criminal convictions, told Gda Finnegan, “Search me if you want, I have nothing on me.”
He was searched and found with eight packages of heroin hidden in his boxer shorts.
Defence counsel Kate O'Toole said the boy was holding the heroin for someone else. The teen had developed a drug problem through abusing tablets, however he was not a heroin user.
Judge Smyth noted today that a negative probation report on the teen had been furnished to the court. He was also told that the boy found it difficult to disassociate from a negative peer group.
He said the boy had been warned at an earlier stage in proceedings that if the pre-sentence report was in any way negative, a custodial sentence would be imposed.
Counsel defending said the teenager wanted to go to addiction counselling, his parents were concerned over his drug use and his mother regularly searches his room.
The court heard that when the boy was younger he had been detained in the Oberstown Boys Centre in north Dublin, where he had done well in the school there. He also wanted to return to education, the court heard.
In sentencing Judge Smyth said that the teenager, who was accompanied to his hearing by his father, had made some progress but the offence was particularly serious given the type of drugs involved.