A Dublin couple who were given a wholly suspended sentence for storing over half a million euro worth of cannabis in their home must wait to learn if their sentence will be increased.
The Court of Criminal Appeal this afternoon said it would reserve judgement in the case of an appeal brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions on grounds of undue leniency against the seven-year suspended sentence imposed on Keith Jervis (aged 36) and Therese Doyle (aged 35).
In October 2011 the couple, with a last address at Rosewood Grove, Lucan, were sentenced to seven years suspended by Judge Martin Nolan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court after they pleaded guilty to possession for sale or supply of 45kg of herbal cannabis.
The court heard that gardaí who executed a warrant to search the couple’s home found the cannabis - which had a value of between €320,000 and €550,000 - sealed in 15 silver bags.
There was evidence that Jervis and Doyle, who have been in a relationship for 19 years and have two young sons, made immediate admissions and directed gardaí to where the drugs were hidden.
Counsel for the State, Ms Roisin Lacey BL, said that Jervis and Doyle had pleaded guilty to the possession of a significant amount of cannabis, and the primary area in which the DPP believed there was an error in principle was the suspension of the entirety of the seven-year sentence imposed.
Ms Lacey submitted that Judge Nolan failed to place the offence on the spectrum of seriousness for offences of this kind.
Counsel said there was a “significant trammelling” of judicial discretion in terms of the mandatory minimum sentence and Judge Nolan should have regarded the maximum penalty of life imprisonment for the offence and not just the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.
She said it was argued that Judge Nolan also attached undue weight to the mitigating circumstances in the case, which included the potential consequences for the two young children of Jervis and Doyle should they both be imprisoned.
Counsel for Keith Jervis, Mr Giollaiosa O Lideadha SC, said that Judge Nolan dealt with a high volume of cases in the Circuit Court, and the suggestion that the maximum sentence of life imprisonment may have escaped the judge’s attention could not be reconciled with the experience of Judge Nolan.
He submitted that the case was dealt with by way of a “reasoned, rational and careful judgment” by an experience judge who was dealing with a complex situation and who was fully aware of his responsibilities.
Counsel told the court there were a series of mitigating factors in the case, including immediate admissions made by Jervis at the scene which were of particular significance.
Mr O Lideadha said the DPP had not been able to point to an error in principle in any shape or form.
Counsel for Doyle, Ms Caroline Biggs SC, told the court that Doyle also took immediate responsibility for the drugs at the scene and had pleaded guilty.
She said there was evidence Doyle was a “vulnerable-type” person who was very unlikely to come before the court again.
Ms Biggs said Doyle was now going in to the third year of her suspended sentence, and she was entitled to finality in her case.
Considering that an error in principle had not been made out Ms Biggs said, it would be an error to impose a custodial sentence now.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Nial Fennelly said the appeal court would reserve its judgement but would give it as soon as possible.