The troubled life of Joshua Allen

The son of TV chef Rachel Allen and grandson of celebrity chef, Darina Allen, has been handed seven months in prison for drugs offences. He may need to use that time to get himself back onto the straight and narrow, writes Eoin English
The troubled life of Joshua Allen

Joshua Allen spent three months in a residential treatment centre for drug use in late 2019. File picture: Cork Courts Limited

As his brother was steering his way to international Formula 3 motorsports success, Joshua Allen, son of TV chef Rachel Allen and grandson of celebrity chef, Darina Allen, was veering off the straight and narrow, into the courts on drugs charges, into rehab, and ultimately into jail.

Despite some recent signs that he was getting his life back on track, and a direct plea to the courts from Darina Allen to give him another chance, justice caught up on the 22-year-old on Friday, as he was jailed again, this time for seven-months.

Judge Sarah Berkeley said: “It appears that the penny has not dropped. He has always had a supportive family. He has had every support available to him. He has been given every chance to desist.” 

It’s been a difficult and turbulent four years for the eldest son of Rachel and Isaac, since he was first charged with drugs offences in 2018, at the age of just 18.

While young men appearing in Irish courts on drugs charges isn’t always headline news, this young man found himself in the glare of the media spotlight because of his family background and his comfortable privileged upbringing.

Born into the Allen food dynasty, headquartered in Ballymaloe in East Cork, Joshua is a grandson of Darina and Tim Allen. Darina contributes to this newspaper. Tim pleaded guilty in 2003 to possession of child pornography images. His great grandmother, the doyenne of Irish food, the late Myrtle Allen, was the founder of the world famous Ballymaloe food empire.

While members of his wealthy and hardworking family has used the media spotlight over the years to their own advantage, Joshua Allen has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons since news broke in September 2018 that he had been arrested in connection with a drugs seizure in East Cork.

Gardaí and Revenue launched a joint operation after Revenue officers at the Portlaoise Mail Centre detected a suspicious package which contained some 1.5kg of herbal cannabis, with an estimated street value of around €30,000, labelled as “clothing”. It had come from the US and was destined for an address in East Cork.

Gardaí executed a controlled delivery of the package at 4.30pm on August 30, 2018 to the Ballymaloe Cookery school, where Joshua Allen took delivery of it, and gardaí pounced.

As speculation mounted in the days afterwards about who had been arrested, his parents issued a statement through a PR firm confirming the arrest of their eldest son. 

They spoke of their devastation and said he had admitted his guilt immediately, had co-operated fully with the gardaí, and would be pleading guilty at the first opportunity.

“Our son is 18 years old, has never been in trouble with the gardaí, and has made a huge mistake, which will have profound consequences for him,” they said at the time.

“We do not in any way condone his actions. In fact, we utterly condemn them, but it is not for us to condemn him.

“We must now try to look after our son and our family the best way we can."

Joshua Allen was later formally charged, and he spent three months in a residential treatment centre for drug use in late 2019, and when the matter came before Cork Circuit Criminal Court in March 2020, he signed guilty pleas and was sentenced to 30 months in prison, with the second half suspended and backdated to November 8, 2019.

The court was told that he was “naive” and “amateurish”, and had initially faced the case with “stupidity”.

But within five weeks of his early release from Cork Prison in May 2020, he was arrested for possession of €280 worth of cocaine, and was later sentenced to two months - a conviction which could serve as a 'triggering' matter for the suspended 15-month portion of the earlier cannabis conviction.

His legal team appealed the severity of the cocaine sentence, and when he found himself before Cork Circuit Criminal Court again earlier this week, he was remanded in custody to Cork Prison for five days by Judge Berkeley who adjourned the matter until Friday to consider various expert reports, files and statements.

The judge also sought clarity on two alleged drug driving incidents involving Allen - both of which she was told earlier this week he denied and would vehemently defend if they came to court.

But Judge Berkeley was told on Friday that Allen had been caught on suspicion of drug driving in both Midleton and Dungarvan in May of this year, and while Allen had initially said he would deny the charges, he had since said he had attended a music festival during which he consumed cannabis prior to the incidents.

Nevertheless, that is the only time he's come to garda attention since the cocaine incident.

He has taken up mixed martial arts (MMA), with Samson Martial Arts club in Cork city.

Earlier this year, he posted on Instagram that he was determined to face life “head-on” and concentrate on sport and on his own stone carving business.

He thanked the club and his trainer for "helping me turn my life around".

He said two years ago, he was in rehab "at a very low point" in his life and added: “Still have a lot of things I have to face this year but I’m going to face them head-on like I do with everything else in life.” 

His legal team had also argued that he had changed his life, had learned his lesson, and was pursuing positive, healthy life choices.

In a letter to the court, Darina Allen said she was convinced that he had a new focus in his life.

“I know he has made mistakes but he realises all his troubles have been caused by issues with drugs and alcohol. He has disassociated himself from his former associates and he is determined to turn his life around. He is determined to continue on the path he is now on," she wrote.

Sources familiar with the case say they believe the young man got himself into this situation more as a result of naivety and stupidity, combined with access to money, and perhaps an absence of rules and respect for authority, rather than anything more sinister.

But they also said he was given several chances - but blew them. The court agreed on Friday.

Allen will have to draw on his MMA training, take it on the chin, and learn.

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