A 58-year-old Dublin man who was jailed for 10 years for possessing cannabis and ecstasy valued at over €200,000 has had his sentence reduced by four years on appeal.
The Court of Criminal Appeal this afternoon determined there had been an error in principle in the 10-year sentence imposed on former warehouse worker Noel Dowling by Judge Katherine Delahunt in November 2010.
Dowling, of Kenilworth Square, Rathgar, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of drugs for sale or supply at his home and at another address in Dublin 6 on June 9, 2009.
The court heard evidence that gardaí who raided Dowling’s home and a flat on Ranelagh Road uncovered €93,850 in cash, as well as herbal cannabis, cannabis resin and ecstasy with a total value of €216, 488.
Detectives also uncovered foreign currency at the apartment on Kenilworth Sqaure, including Hungarian Florins and Turkish Lira, but it was accepted in court that this was not for “sinister purposes”.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan said the appeal court was satisfied that the sentencing judge did not afford sufficient consideration to the mitigating factors in favour of Dowling.
He said the court had regard to the fact that Dowling was a 58-year-old man with no previous convictions, and noted that he had pleaded guilty to the offence and was unlikely to trouble the courts again.
Mr Justice Finnegan said the court would substitute the sentence imposed with one of 10 years with the last four years suspended.
Counsel for the applicant, Mr Pieter Le Vert BL, had argued that Dowling’s early plea of guilty, his lack of previous convictions and his age meant he “checked all the boxes possible” to warrant a departure from the presumptive minimum sentence of 10 years.
He said that Judge Delahunt erred in determining a starting point “way in excess of 10 years” as an appropriate sentence and had failed to give due weight to the mitigating factors in favour of the applicant.
Mr Le Vert said that with regard to possession for personal use, the Oireachtas had drawn a distinction between cannabis and other drugs, and failure to have cognisance of this was another “small building block” in the overall error committed.
He said that the sentencing judge also erred in principle by failing to have due regard to Dowling’s rehabilitative prospects, including evidence that he done charity work in the community.
Ms Martina Baxter BL, for the State, told the court that Judge Delahunt had originally adjourned sentencing for a number of weeks and had given adequate regard to the mitigating factors in favour of the applicant.
She reminded the court that Dowling had operated a “commercial enterprise” involving “no small sum” of drugs and that the spectrum of penalties available to the judge ranged from 10 years to life imprisonment.