A man whose "life spiralled out of control" when a boy was killed after falling off the back of his truck has received an 11 year sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court for having heroin valued €132,000.
John Ward (aged 27), of Cedarbrook Walk, Ballyfermot built up a €4,500 debt to a criminal dealer who forced him to hold the heroin for him or he would "pay with his life".
Ward’s drug "debt" then escalated to €180,000 because he was held "accountable" for the confiscation of the €132,000 stash and when three months later he was caught with a further €3,200 worth of the drug, he told gardaí the dealer threatened he would rape his young daughter if he did not hold this stash for him.
The following month he was caught with a black Magnum revolver and the ammunition for it and Ward said he was holding it for the same gang to get "€1,000 knocked off his debt".
Ward, who had also previously been shot in the chest in unrelated circumstances, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of heroin for sale or supply at his home on May 31 and August 20, 2006, and to being in possession of firearms and ammunition at his home on September 5, 2006.
Judge Katherine Delahunt noted Ward was "in genuine fear of the consequences of his drug debt" and imposed a total of 11 years imprisonment with the final two years suspended on strict conditions.
Garda Brendan Hand agreed with defence counsel, Mr Giollaiosa O Lideadha SC, that Ward was "absolutely under an ongoing genuine threat" and that gardaí accepted he had previously received "a shot gun blast in the chest from people who were trying to kill him".
Gda Hand agreed the shooting was not connected to the drug gang and said Ward had also been beaten with a hammer in relation to "a totally different matter" and had been threatened while on remand in custody.
Mr O Lideadha told Judge Delahunt that while the Coroner's Court found that Ward was not responsible for the death of the boy 10 years ago, he was "left totally distraught by the horrific tragedy" and started taking heroin almost immediately.
Mr O Lideadha said the child had jumped onto the back of the truck, unknown to Ward, and the Coroner's Court concluded it was an accidental death.
Gda Hand told prosecuting counsel, Mr Kerida Naidoo BL, that Ward had 22 previous convictions including a six-year sentence for hijacking a car and possession of a syringe. Four years of that sentence was suspended.
Five separate stashes of heroin, two of which were in a ‘Moses basket’, and a notebook containing figures that gardaí believed related to the sale and supply of drugs were found in the first search of Ward’s home.
Gda Hand said an amount of cash was also found in the house and Ward later admitted that apart from €1,100 meant for his rent the balance was "drug money".
He said he would get a phone call to go to a designated area where he would get a description of what his customers would be wearing and sell them an amount of heroin.
He had been doing this for five weeks and was getting €150 "now and again" and his drug debt had dropped from €4,500 to €2,800.
Gda Hand agreed with Mr O Lideadha that Ward "was a serious drug addict with serious debts" and that that he was under "substantial pressure" to pay them off.
He accepted that any fear Ward had would have been "particularly magnified" by the fact that he had previously been shot.
He further accepted that although Ward was not at the lowest rung of the ladder, he was "somebody operating instructions" and was getting money to pay off his debts.
Mr O Lideadha submitted to Judge Delahunt that Ward was "somebody with a very sad record who has made repeated attempts to do what he could to get off drugs but has failed".