Two men caught transporting €3.3m worth of heroin have succeeded in having their 10-year sentences reduced by two years on appeal.
The Court of Criminal appeal today determined that Judge Katherine Delahunt had erred in principle by imposing 10-year sentences on John Paul Cawley (aged 31) and his co-accused Greg O’Brien (aged 21) at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in May 2010.
Cawley of Lugdoon, Doocastle, Ballymoate, Sligo, and O’Brien of Dolphins Road, Drimnagh, had pleaded guilty to possessing heroin with a combined value of €3.27m at Boomer’s car park, Woodford Walk, Clondalkin in Dublin on January 23, 2009.
Another man, Andrew Meeson (aged 41), of The Hawthorns, Carraroe, Sligo, also received a 10-year prison term after pleading guilty to his role in the affair.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell, sitting with Mr Justice Declan Budd and Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne, said the court found that a “legitimate distinction” could be drawn between the two applicants and their co-accused Andrew Meeson and that the sentencing judge had erred by treating all three men “in exactly the same way”.
He said that, while the court did not it consider it “essential” for a sentencing judge to set-out in “slavish detail” a reasoning process for imposing a particular sentence, the court would have found it helpful if Judge Delahunt had elaborated more on her sentence calculation method in this case.
Mt Justice O’Donnell said the court had regard to the fact the both applicants had no previous convictions and that both had proffered an early plea of guilty.
He said that, after having the opportunity to consider the case “afresh”, the appeal court would suspend the last two years of the 10-year sentences imposed on each of the applicants.
The sentencing court heard evidence that O’Brien and Cawley were arrested after a garda operation targeting drug-dealing in Ballyfermot.
Detectives saw the driver of a Fiat Punto, identified as Greg O’Brien, enter a car-park in Ballyfermot, and liaise with a Nissan Almera driven by John Paul Cawley before returning to his own car.
Gardaí followed the two cars to Boomer’s car park where they searched and located a sports holdall containing 14 half kilo bags of heroin valued at €1.3m in the front passenger seat foot-well of the Punto.
Gardaí also uncovered a suitcase containing 20 half kilo bags of heroin valued at €1.9m in the Almera which Cawley was driving and Andrew Meeson was a passenger.
Ms Una Ni Raifeartaigh SC, for O’Brien, told the court that Judge Delahunt paid undue attention to the value of the drugs seized in the case and had placed very little emphasis on O’Brien’s unique personal circumstances or his culpability in terms of his knowledge of how much the drugs were worth.
She said that O’Brien was just 20 years old at the time of the offence and had no previous convictions, while there was evidence he was addicted to cocaine at the time and had agreed to transport the drugs in lieu of a small drugs debt.
Ms Ni Rafeartaigh said that gardaí accepted that O’Brien was not “on the radar” and that it was possible he had no knowledge of what he was collecting or how much it was worth.
Ms Caroline Biggs SC, for Cawley, told the court that Judge Delahunt had failed to remunerate “specific and exceptional circumstances” in Cawley’s case when imposing a 10-year sentence.
She said that Cawley had come before the court with a good work history, had displayed remorse for his actions and was someone whom gardaí classed as having “a degree of immaturity”.