‘Surprised’ judge delays dealer’s sentencing over Garda’s character evidence

A drug-dealer facing sentence for transporting €10,000 of cocaine from Dublin had the hearing adjourned, so gardaí could look into the fact that a member of An Garda Síochána provided character evidence for him.

‘Surprised’ judge delays dealer’s sentencing over Garda’s character evidence

Judge Brian O’Callaghan had adjourned the sentencing hearing so that the prosecuting garda could enquire into another member of An Garda Síochána providing character evidence.

“I am surprised to see it,” Judge O’Callaghan said of the character evidence, written by a member of An Garda Síochána.

This evidence was presented in the form of a letter, which defence barrister, Niamh Stewart, handed in to Cork Circuit Criminal Court, on behalf of Kenneth O’Donoghue, 35, of 59 Fairfield Avenue, Farranree, Cork, who pleaded guilty to having cocaine for sale or supply on October 15, 2016.

Ms Stewart, said: “He had addiction problems in the past, but he is doing well now.”

Detective Garda Eoin O’Toole did not agree with the contents of the letter written by the other garda, as character evidence for the accused.

The detective said Kenneth O’Donoghue was “a longstanding target of the drugs unit”.

After the adjournment of sentencing, yesterday, to look into the letter written by the other officer, Det Garda O’Toole returned to court to say that he was unable to reach the garda by phone, but could not dispute that it was written and stamped from a garda station and was genuine.

“All I can say is that the member (who wrote the letter) is not attached to the divisional drugs unit.

“I would not agree with his opinion that he (O’Donoghue) will not reoffend,” Det Garda O’Toole testified.

Judge O’Callaghan put the letter to one side on the bench, during the imposition of sentence on O’Donoghue, and said it was not a report a judge would rely upon, in the absence of the particular guard attending court to support its contents.

Det Garda O’Toole said O’Donoghue was stopped by gardaí, after driving from Dublin to Cork with €10,000 worth of cocaine concealed in the steering wheel column of the Toyota Avensis. He was stopped on a side road around Fermoy, having driven from Dublin on the motorway. The detection followed a period of surveillance.

He was caught six months earlier with €1,200 worth of cannabis, for which he got a suspended jail term and 200 hours of community service.

Ms Stewart, BL, said of O’Donoghue: “He started using hash at a young age. He is drug-free now.

“He has not come to the attention of the guards since 2016.

“There was a level of co-operation, in that he said where the drugs were concealed.”

Judge O’Callaghan said of this co-operation, on arrival at Mayfield Garda Station, following his arrest in the Fermoy area: “He must have known his goose was cooked.”

UPDATE: Judge Brian O’Callaghan imposed a sentence of two and a half years on Kenneth O’Donoghue, with the last year suspended.

This article was amended on February 16, 2018.

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