Two men were caught with over €6,000 worth of cannabis after the driver of the car entered a Letterkenny roundabout in the wrong lane.
Ben Neill and Adam McClure came to Donegal in the car by ferry and were just ‘driving around’ when they were caught with the drugs stash.
The pair avoided custodial sentences when they appeared at Letterkenny District Court in connection with the haul.
The attention of Gardai was drawn to a Volkswagen Passat at Pearse Road, Letterkenny on July 13, 2021.
McClure, the driver of the car, failed a roadside drugs test after Garda Barbara Doherty detected a strong smell of cannabis emanating from the vehicle and he was taken to Letterkenny garda station.
Inspector Tony Byrne told the court that the car was searched and 307.6 grams of cannabis was located. Subsequent analysis indicated that the drugs had a street value of €6,150.
Inspector Byrne said both men cooperated fully on the night.
Ben Neill, aged 21 and with an address at Millbrook Manor, Ballymoney, County Antrim and Adam McClure, aged 21 with an address at Mcarthur Avenue, Ballymoney, County Antrim, both tendered guilty pleas.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) said the matter could be dealt with at District Court level on the basis of guilty pleas.
Both men were represented by Mr Ciaran O’Rourke BL, instructed by solicitor Mr Patsy Gallagher.
Mr O’Rourke said Neill has, at all times, admitted ownership of the drugs.
McClure, he said, lives with his father and works full-time as a welder having recently completed a four-year apprenticeship. He said McClure allowed the drugs to be kept in the vehicle and was aware of what the substance was.
“He knows what risks he faces,” Mr O’Rourke said, adding that McClure will now have to find an alternative way to get to work.
Mr O’Rourke said: “These offences need to be put in context. It was a foolish act undertaken by two teenagers.”
Mr O’Rourke said the pair took a ferry from Magilligan Point in Derry to Donegal and were not in Letterkenny for the purpose of dealing drugs.
“This was nothing more than simply driving around,” Mr O’Rourke said. “The drugs were placed in the car earlier in the day. The drugs were coincidental.
“I have asked them for an explanation and the only one that can be given is that they fell in with a bad crowd at the time. They have turned away from drug use and these actions can only be explained as the foolish actions of teenagers.”
Neill, a sandblaster who lives with his uncle, has a partner for the last three years, the court heard. Neill has recently served a ten-month prison sentence in Northern Ireland having been convicted of the possession of drugs for the purpose of selling or otherwise supplying the drugs to another. He was released for ten months on licence.
Mr O’Rourke said that prison was ‘very hard’ on Neill, but had assisted in getting him off drugs.
He asked Judge Ciaran Liddy to consider a non-custodial sentence and tendered an apology on behalf of his clients.
Judge Ciaran Liddy said the value of the drugs meant that the case was at the ‘upper end’ of the jurisdiction of the District Court.
Judge Liddy told Neill that, given that he was previously convicted for the possession of drugs for the purpose of selling or supplying, that he ‘really should have known better’. A probation report in respect of Neill was described as being ‘very positive’.
Judge Liddy said the fact that the drugs were transported from another jurisdiction by ferry also had to be factored in. He sentenced Neill to 12 months imprisonment for the possession of drugs for the purpose of selling or otherwise supplying the drugs to another. The sentence was suspended in its entirety for a period of two years. A charge of possessing a controlled drug was marked as taken into account by Judge Liddy.
The Judge said McClure was ‘very young’ at the time of the incident and noted that he was gainfully employed as a welder. He ceded to Mr O’Rourke’s request to accept an appeal to a charge of possession, a lesser charge than one of possession for the purpose of selling or otherwise supplying.
McClure was fined €500 for the possession of cannabis. For the drug driving charge, McClure was disqualified from driving for one year with the ban to begin on December 2.
Judge Liddy directed a destruction order in respect of the drugs.