A distinctive green bag and particularly pungent cannabis helped to secure the conviction of a Cork man who denied discarding drugs while running away from gardaí.
Jonathan Murphy, aged 24, of 36 O’Neill Crowley Tce, Mitchelstown, Co Cork, denied having a bag of cannabis worth €50, Fermoy District Court heard.
Murphy had been stopped by Garda Aidan Riordan who had seen him walking down Upper Cork St, Mitchelstown, and approach a man known to gardaí.
“I observed what I believed to be a transaction,” said Garda Riordan, who is attached to a drugs unit and was wearing plain clothes at the time.
“I approached and identified myself as a garda. I told him I believed a drug transaction took place.
“There was a strong smell of cannabis.”
He said that the defendant explained the smell was from a joint which had been in his pocket earlier but which he had given away.
Garda Riordan began a search on the street, which Murphy complied with, but Garda Riordan then deemed the location unsuitable so he asked the defendant to come to the station for a search instead.
Murphy agreed and was “cordial” as they walked to the Garda station, the court heard, but 100m from the station, he suddenly turned and ran from Garda Riordan.
“I ran after him, I saw him turn up James’ St," said Garda Riordan. "I could see him put his left hand into his pocket. He was tearing a green bag open and a substance fell out, then he threw the bag away.”
Garda Riordan said he could see the green bag vividly and the colour “stood out".
He caught up with the victim who he believed had “run out of steam” and arrested him and called for back-up.
When a patrol car arrived to take Murphy to the station, Garda Riordan went back to the area where he said he saw Murphy drop the green bag and found a "distinctive” green plastic bag and cannabis material close by.
Nothing else was found on the defendant at a subsequent search at Fermoy Garda station.
Murphy was charged with cannabis possession under section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act and with an offence of obstructing gardaí under section 21 of the Misuse of Drugs Act.
However, Reginald Garrett, defending, said that his client’s pockets were emptied during the initial search so he could not have discarded the green bag minutes later.
He said that his client denied ever having the drugs.
When the green plastic bag and cannabis were handed to Judge Alec Gabbett in plastic evidence bags, he noted that you could smell the cannabis through the plastic evidence bags.
“It’s very strong,” he said.
Mr Garrett asked Garda Riordan why he had not “followed proper procedure” and used gloves to pick up the green plastic bag which could then have been tested for fingerprints and DNA evidence.
However, Judge Gabbett said that finding a small quantity of suspected cannabis was “not a murder scene”.
“The wheels of justice would fall off” if a forensic team was brought in every time a small quantity of drugs was recovered, he said.
“It’s too expensive,” he said. “This was €50 worth of cannabis.
“And this was a very distinctive bag.
“If they had fingerprints, you’d be telling me some other story about the fingerprints.”
He said that they had heard evidence from a long-serving garda with experience in the drugs squad.
Mr Garrett said while deference should be given to gardaí, deference was not absolute belief and a garda’s observance could be wrong.
However, Judge Gabbett said this “was not a deference issue” and the evidence before the court was not circumstantial.
“There is very clear evidence before the courts,” he said.
“It is not a coincidence that a green bag happened to be on the ground” where Garda Riordan said he saw him drop it, he said.
“Not everyone goes around with green bags. It’s a very distinctive green bag.
“When he went back, he found the same green bag he had seen falling out of this man’s pocket.
“I’m in no doubt whatsoever that the green bag seen falling out of his pocket is the same green bag found on the pavement.
“The biggest difficulty your client has is that he ran. Why did he run?”
The defendant said that he ran because he was anxious to avoid a strip search.
“I suffer from anxiety, I asked if that [a strip search] was really necessary.
“I continued walking with him but then I got up in a heap.
“I’m a young fit man, I could have continued running, but realisation kicked in. I realised I had made a mistake and I stopped. I had a little baby on the way. I don’t need any hassle in my life.”
Judge Gabbett asked: “You had an epiphany mid-run?”
Murphy said: “I stopped. Then he said, ‘I have you now.’”
“But if Mr Riordan had already searched my pockets, how could I have something to throw away. It’s impossible. It’s impossible for me to take something out of my pocket when it’s already emptied.”
However, Judge Gabbett said: “I’m satisfied in relation to both summonses there is sufficient evidence to convict this man."
The courts heard Murphy had previous convictions for cannabis possession and sale or supply.
Mr Garrett said his client was still quite young, he had a difficult upbringing and had a relative who was deep in drug addiction, but “he’s got himself on the straight and narrow now”.
“He’s working 40 hours a week. He has a new child and he is focused on that child.
“He’s someone that comes across as extremely nervous.”
Judge Gabbett acknowledged that Murphy had spoken about his anxiety.
“Some people smoke it [cannabis] to dull anxiety, for others it causes anxiety, it’s a double-edged sword.
“He’s a working man and this is recreational cannabis use, I assume.
“He’s in danger of a prison sentence but I don’t believe it warrants that.”
Judge Gabbett fined him €200, with six months to pay, and took the section 21 obstruction charge into consideration.
He ordered that the seized cannabis be destroyed.