State forced to withdraw ecstasy charges

The State has withdrawn charges against a man accused of holding a small amount of ecstasy in light of Tuesday’s Court of Appeal ruling which temporarily legalised possession of the drug.

The man still faces sentence for possession of €23,000 of heroin, which he claimed he was holding to clear a €30,000 debt.

Phillip Farrell, aged 35, of Cushlawn Park, Tallaght, Dublin, was caught storing the drugs at his home on two separate occasions.

He pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of heroin for sale or supply on December 3, 2013, and February 2, 2014. He also admitted possession of cannabis resin with a market value of €732 for supply on December 3, 2013.

John Byrne, prosecuting, told the court that, on foot of the Court of Appeal ruling, the State was withdrawing two charges relating to unlawful possession of a quantity of ecstasy. This amount had an estimated market value of just over €200.

Farrell had not entered pleas to the ecstasy counts, but they were to be taken into consideration during his sentencing.

The hearing heard he told gardaí he owed €30,000 because he had “messed up in relation to something else” and he was in fear for his life.

Garda Michelle McGuinness, from the district drugs unit in Tallaght, told Sandra Frayne, defending, she thought this was a genuine fear.

Judge Desmond Hogan said there was evidence Farrell was acting under duress. He said: “He was being pressurised to pay money and to hold the drugs. His family did pay off considerable sums of money so he would not be retaliated against, his life would not be put at risk”.

He adjourned the case to May for sentence.

Farrell has 31 previous convictions. Ms Frayne said those offences were linked to a drugs debt and gardaí served him with a notice about a threat to his safety.

He told gardaí he was storing the drugs for someone else but he wouldn’t name him. Asked if storing the drugs would cover his debt he told them: “I doubt it very much, I’d say I will be made do it again.”

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