The Court of Appeal has rejected a 39-year-old man’s appeal against a prison sentence for his part in a “sophisticated” drug-dealing operation in which cannabis was imported into Ireland disguised as packets of nappies.
In delivering judgment on Thursday, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said that the court found no error in the original sentence of three years with the final 18 months suspended imposed on Damien Cahill (39).
Cahill, with an address at Railway Close, Kilsheelan, Tipperary, was convicted at Clonmel Courthouse on July 13, 2021, of having cannabis for sale or supply at Slievenamon Road, Ivowen, Kilsheelan, Tipperary, on September 22, 2017.
Mr Justice John Edwards said the appellant had told gardaí that he had previously supplied cocaine. He said this information was relevant to the appellant’s contention that he committed the cannabis offence to discharge a drug debt.
Cahill’s barrister, Colman Cody SC, said that the cocaine supply took place over a period of a week and had been inextricably bound up with his client’s cocaine addiction. Mr Justice Edwards said this showed the appellant had supplied drugs before.
“He has done it more than once. He acquired a debt and sought to address that by selling drugs. This shows his recidivist nature,” said Mr Justice Edwards. Mr Justice Edwards said there was no evidence the appellant had since addressed his addiction issues.
“By his own admission, he had given up cocaine but was taking cannabis. If one is addicted, it is like being a little bit pregnant, one either gives up or they don’t. He was given a chance, but his resolve is undermined by his admission that he hasn’t given up. He had cut down but is still taking cannabis,” said Mr Justice Edwards.
He said there was no evidence that the appellant had since completed any courses to deal with his addiction and there was no urinalysis report. “In the absence of that, can you criticise the sentencing judge? Drugs are a scourge, and he wasn’t entitled to much credit,” said Mr Justice Edwards.
Mr Cody said that his client’s co-operation with the gardaí had been minimised by the sentencing judge. “On the one hand, the judge characterised him as an innocent cog, but he later said he was an essential cog. He was at the lowest end of the hierarchy and in receipt of drugs to be passed on,” said Mr Cody.
Mr Justice McCarthy said that drugs are “a scourge on society”. “The seriousness of this is such that it must give rise to punishment and deterrence,” said Mr Justice McCarthy.
Mr Justice Edwards said that the sentencing was a matter of discretion for the judge. “It’s a borderline case that could go either way, and it is not for us to interfere. There was no error of principle,” said Mr Justice Edwards.
Mr Cody said the sentence was still disproportionate. “If he had become involved for financial gain and had a more significant role, it would be difficult to argue with the sentence, but those factors do not exist,” he said.
Counsel for the State, David Humphries BL, said it seemed likely that any urinalysis would have shown cannabis. “He wasn’t entirely drug-free at the time of the hearing,” said Mr Humphries.
He said the sentencing judge had to consider a serious offence involving a large quantity and value of drugs that had been imported disguised as nappies as part of a sophisticated enterprise. “It’s hard to say there was an error in principle,” he said.
Delivering judgment in the case, Mr Justice McCarthy noted that customs officers had found the drugs hidden in nappies and the gardaí subsequently obtained a search warrant for the address they were delivered to.
He said the appellant made admissions that he was expecting the drugs and had been involved in the sale of cocaine in the past. The appellant was to hand the drugs over to an unnamed male in order to clear a drug debt of up to €6,000.
He said the sentencing judge had decided not to fully suspend the sentence and had been right to arrive at a sentence of three years and suspend a part. Mr Justice McCarthy said that the Court of Appeal did not find any error and dismissed the appeal.