THREE Englishmen have pleaded not guilty to charges relating to the seizure of more than €100 million worth of cocaine off the coast of west Cork last summer.
As the biggest drugs trial in the history of the state began in Cork city yesterday, Perry Wharrie, aged 48, of 60, Pryles Lane, Essex, England; Joseph Daly, aged 41, from 9, Carisbrook Avenue, Bexley, Kent; and Martin Wanden, aged 45, who is also English but has no fixed abode, all pleaded not guilty yesterday to the charges against them at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
The three men are accused of possessing cocaine, possessing it with intent to sell or supply, and having it for sale or supply when its street value exceeded €13,000 on July 2, at Dunlough Bay, Mizen, Goleen, Co Cork.
A jury of nine men and three women was sworn in to hear the case before Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin.
A jury panel of more than 100 people responded to summonses to appear in court yesterday for the case and the swearing of the jury turned into a lengthy process, not least because of the judge’s warning about the estimated length of time the case would take.
“It is estimated that this case could take up to 10 weeks. It is a matter of considerable commitment.
“If you have real difficulties you will be excused,” Judge Ó Donnabháin told the panel before the swearing in of the jury.
There followed a process that took most of an hour as numerous people who were called to be jurors indicated that they had personal problems that precluded them from committing to the 10-week duration of the trial.
Many cited pre-booked holidays and several farmers indicated that they would not be able to find someone to milk the cows or tend to cows that were calving.
The judge had also warned the jury panelists that they should not serve on the jury if they had personal connections in a number of key areas in west Cork, or knew members of An Garda Síochána in Bantry, Clonakilty or Schull.
The judge also said witnesses would be called from the coast guard based in Goleen, members of customs drugs unit, the Naval service, the crews of Castletownbere and Baltimore lifeboats, who were involved in a search.
The judge told the jury: “This case has now formally started. It is in your charge. You and you alone will be the people who will decide the case.”
He told the jury to return for the opening of evidence on Monday, May 26, at 10.30am.
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