A Cork farmer moonlighting as a drug supplier, using the farm on occasions as a collection point for customers to pick up cocaine, has had his jail sentence suspended on appeal.
Barry Coleman, son of Independent county councillor and former mayor of County Cork Alan Coleman, had been sentenced at Bandon District Court to 10 months, but it has now been suspended by the district's appeals court.
The 34-year-old dairy farmer, of Ballinacourtha, Belgooly, Cork, was convicted last September of having cocaine for sale and supply on April 5, 2019, and given a €2,000 fine for possession of the drug.
The district court previously heard evidence that some customers collected the drug at his farmyard and dropped the money there in exchange. One person offered to milk the farmer’s cows in exchange for drugs.
Detective Garda Colin O'Mahony gave details, last September, of how Barry Coleman was found at Cois Bruach, Curra, Riverstick, on April 5, 2019, with three bags of cocaine and €230 in cash.
The detective also described a string of text messages which indicated the extent to which he was supplying drugs to others.
Coleman subsequently appealed against the prison sentence imposed.
The State solicitor for West Cork, Malachy Boohig, told Court of Appeal Judge Helen Boyle that the appellant admitted at the time to having cocaine for his own personal use, but that an investigation of the phone illustrated his involvement of the sale and supply of drugs.
While he denied the drugs were for sale and supply, he accepted the immediate amount found was more than would be for personal use. He had no previous convictions.
Solicitor Diarmuid O’Shea said his client accepted his guilt, but that rather than sale and supply, it was more banding money together with a group.
Since the offence, Coleman had not come to any Garda attention whatsoever, but there had been huge consequences on his life.
There was huge publicity surrounding this particular case, with Coleman ending up on the front page of thenewspaper, Mr O’Shea said, adding that locals had shunned him.
His client had undertaken eight urine samples from July 2020, and continues to work on the family farm.
A probation report said Colelman was polite, co-operative, accepted responsibility for his actions, and was unlikely to reoffend again.
Mr O’Shea said his “huge efforts” warranted a second chance, and asked for the 10-month jail sentence to be suspended.
He is eager to make right the wrongs he did, Mr O'Shea added.
Judge Boyle said Coleman had brought pressure upon himself, but that the probation report showed he had faced up to his difficulties regarding drugs.
In view of the low risk of reoffending and that the shame on his family was something he did not want to bring again, along with Coleman completing a drug awareness programme, she said she would suspend the sentence for a period of two years.