A heroin dealer who used to sell ice-cream to parents and their children from his ice-cream van was yesterday jailed for four years.
At Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Gerald Keys said Paul Collopy, aged 41, of Gordon Drive, Ennis, Co Clare, represented “a serious threat” to society and its young people through his drug dealing.
Collopy pleaded guilty to possession of €26,796 worth of heroin with intent to supply on November 22 last at Ballycoree, Ennis.
The Limerick native was found with the heroin, contained in a coffee jar, on a laneway at Ballycoree when under Garda surveillance on the date. Collopy also pleaded guilty to having a ‘tick-list’ of drug users who owed him money. The total amounted to €37,920.
Judge Keys imposed a six-year term for the possession with intent to supply charge and suspended the final two years.
He imposed a concurrent two-and-a-half year sentence on the possession of the tick list.
After Collopy was sentenced, he told Judge Keys “I’m off drugs”, and asked that Judge Keys direct that he continue to receive drug treatment in prison. Judge Keys backdated the sentence to last November when Collopy was first taken into custody.
Det Garda Trevor Shannon agreed with counsel for Collopy, Padraic Dwyer, that Collopy comes from a good family “and has absolutely no connection to the Collopys associated with gangland feuding in Limerick”. Det Shannon told the court that while Collopy was not an importer of the drugs or a mastermind, he would be regarded as a “significant” player in the local drugs scene.
Mr Dwyer said Collopy had a serious addiction to heroin at the time and was spending €300 per day to feed his habit.
Det Shannon said Collopy has 69 previous convictions including one five-year jail term received in relation to dealing drugs worth €17,740 in December 2007. Collopy has previous convictions for assault, and threats to kill, but the majority, 37, were for road traffic offences.
Judge Keys said the aggravating factors in the case were the quantity of drugs; Collopy’s previous sentence of five years for dealing drugs; being uncooperative with the gardaí; and his lengthy criminal record.
In mitigation, Judge Keys said Collopy made an early guilty plea; that he had serious addiction problems at the time of the offence; that his involvement with drugs was not solely for financial gain; that he has made serious attempts to deal with drug addiction; has shown some remorse, has apologised and has the support of his family.
Judge Keys said: “Despite having a previous conviction for sale or supply, I believe that it would be unjust in all of the circumstances to impose a 10-year mandatory sentence.”
Collopy’s father, Tadhg, who was in court yesterday and on the previous occasion, gave evidence to say he has three other grown-up children and seven grand-children and apart from Paul, none of them have ever been in trouble. He said his son had done his best to get away from drugs by setting up a number of businesses and sought treatment for his addiction with Victory Outreach 10 or 11 years ago.
Tadhg Collopy said that of course he is absolutely opposed to drug dealing “and the only reason I am here is because Paul is my son and I want to be as supportive as I can be to him”.
Mr Dwyer said his client “was grateful and happy to be caught”.
He said: “He wants to get off drugs and be law abiding. He wants to get back to doing what he is good at — which is working and running businesses.”
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