A mother-of-seven who stored over €190,000 of drugs and collected a shotgun to pay off her daughter's drug debt has been given a five-year suspended sentence.
Catherine Byrne (54) of Cloverhill Road, Ballyfermot, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of drugs for sale or supply at her address on May 29, 2018.
Byrne and her co-accused, Robert Yeates (32) of St Donaghs Road, Donamede, also pleaded guilty to possession of a shotgun at the car park of Charlestown Shopping Centre, St Margarets Road, Finglas North, on the same date.
Garda Sergeant Darren Coller told Sinead McMullen BL, prosecuting, that on the date in question gardaí observed Yeates put a large long box in the boot of a car driven by Byrne, who was accompanied by her two grandchildren.
Byrne was later stopped by gardaí who discovered that the box contained a shotgun. During a subsequent search of her home gardaí discovered mixing agent along with cocaine and heroin with a combined total value of €192,640.
Sgt Coller agreed with Paul Carroll SC, defending Byrne, that his client got involved in this criminality to pay off her daughter's drug debt.
He further agreed that Byrne had told gardaí following her arrest that she was glad it was all over as she had been under enormous stress and had developed ulcers.
When stopped by gardaí Yeates had said he had delivered the box to pay off his own drug debt. He said he had not known what was in the box, but he had suspected it might be a gun, Detective Garda Donal Donoghue told the court.
He agreed with Michael Bowman SC, defending Yeates, that Yeates had moved out of his family home and tried to disappear for 12 months, only to be located. He agreed Yeates feared for the safety of himself and his family.
Byrne has 21 previous convictions, all of which are for road traffic offences. Yeates has two previous convictions, both of which are for road traffic offences.
Mr Carroll said his client had seven children and was effectively in loco parentis of her two grandchildren at the time of the offending. He said Byrne was threatened due to her daughter's drug debt and that some of those threats made mention of her grandchildren.
He said there was another way to meet the justice of the case without imposing an immediate custodial sentence.
Judge Martin Nolan said the background to Byrne's involvement was “very relevant”. “Her daughter incurred a considerable debt due to her drug addiction” before he added “she was trying to save her daughter.
“Her daughter involved herself with serious individuals and she apprehended harm to her daughter if she didn't agree to get involved. She found herself in a desperate situation and she took desperate measures to protect her daughter,” Judge Nolan continued.
He said Byrne's culpability was low. “If the daughter possessed these drugs the court could say 'you created this by your own misbehaviour'. The misbehaviour that gave rise to this offending was not hers but her daughter's,” Judge Nolan said.
He also said that he could accept that she believed the box contained drugs rather than a firearm.
Judge Nolan said he was going to take “the unusual step” of not imprisoning Byrne before he sentenced her to five years in prison which he suspended in full.
He also sentenced Yeates to three and a half years imprisonment, but suspended the sentence in its entirety on condition the accused keep the peace and be of good behaviour for three and a half years.