Two ‘dopey’ middle-aged drug mules who spent six days in hospital expelling more than 90 swallowed pellets of cocaine smuggled in from Spain have been each jailed for two years, writes Gordan Deegan.
At Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Gerald Keys said that Thomas Tully, aged 44, of Star Court, John Carew Park, Limerick, and John Byrne, aged 43, of Clare St, Limerick were “extremely foolish” to smuggle the drugs into Shannon on April 21, 2014.
Before imposing the four-year jail terms suspending the final two years in each case, Judge Keys said: “Both of you for little or no reward risked your lives — you are extremely foolish and reckless. Your financial standing made both of you vulnerable to be approached by drug lords to carry out this operation.”
The two were detected by Customs drugs dog, Ollie at Shannon Airport after they came off a flight from Spain.
Tully had swallowed 54 pellets of cocaine with a street value of €17,150; while Byrne swallowed 40 pellets with a street value of €11,645.
The two were arrested by gardaí and brought to University Hospital Limerick where they spent the next five-to-six days expelling the cocaine pellets.
Both pleaded guilty to the importation and possession with intent to supply. Tully, a father of four children, aged 15 to seven, faced the more serious charge as his drug amount was over €13,000.
Det Sgt Kevin O’Hagan told the court that the two men each stood to make around €600 to €700 each from the operation after flight and accommodation expenses were paid for, while Tully also stood to have a €700 debt due to a loan shark written off.
Judge Keys said that both men acted as drug mules in the operation and stated “you were an easy target for drug lords to exploit your vulnerable state of affairs”.
Even before Judge Keys commenced his sentencing in the case in court, Mr Tully hugged loved ones in the body of the court.
At the initial hearing, Anthony Sammon, defending Tully, said that the Court of Criminal Appeal has imposed prison terms on other clients of his who acted as drug mules where suspended sentences were imposed in the circuit court.
Det Sgt O’Hagan said it was a joint operation by the two to bring the drugs back into Shannon. He said Byrne has 48 previous convictions while Tully has 10 previous convictions.
Mr Sammon said Tully “was in debt and was offered a way out” by agreeing to be a drug mule.
Lawrence Groucher, defending Byrne, said his client was a “victim of more sinister elements and is not the strongest of characters. This operation is not something that he volunteered for — he was essentially coerced into doing this for a small reward”.
Judge Keys said that there were exceptional circumstances in the Tully case that allowed him not to impose the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.
The judge said he would treat the two cases the same and imposed the four-year jail terms suspending the final two years in each case.
He warned: “Anyone who wishes to take on the very foolish risk of engaging in this activity — you have the pay the consequences.”
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.