Man with €131,000 worth of cannabis escapes prison sentence
A father of two who had more than €100,000 worth of cannabis plants growing in a property at his home escaped a jail sentence last week.
Declan O'Neill (65), Ballyhit Lane, Barntown, was charged with the unlawful possession of cannabis for the purpose of sale or supply and the cultivation of cannabis plants at Ballyhit lane, Barntown on April 29, 2014.
Garda Donal Doyle said that he searched the property of Declan O'Neill on April 29, 2014 and found a cannabis growhouse there. In total there were 140 cannabis plants at various stages of growth while there was also 1,555.75g of dried cannabis found.
Garda Doyle said that the plants had a potential street value of €110,000 while the dried matter had a street value of €21,000.
O'Neill was arrested and brought to Wexford Garda Station where Garda Doyle said he 'made certain admissions'.
Garda Doyle said the growhouse was a 'fairly elaborate set up with a drying area, fans and expensive lamps'.
The court heard O'Neill pleaded guilty to the charges in July of this year and had one previous conviction.
Garda Doyle said O'Neill was a 'builder by trade and due to the economic downturn was not getting work and got into difficulties with the banks'.
The court heard that O'Neill's son Sean was very ill with Crohn's disease and the cannabis plants were used to make an oil which relieved his symptoms. The court heard that another son was left brain damaged in a car accident while his wife was nearly blind as a result of glaucoma.
The court heard O'Neill's family were relying on him and he cared for his son Sean who is currently recovering from a broken hip as well as having Crohn's disease. The couple's son Kevin also needed to be cared for as a result of his injuries.
The court heard O'Neill was willing to perform community service and was 'seeking the mercy and understanding of the court'.
Judge Barry Hickson said 'the court knows the popular opinion regarding cannabis in various states of America and in other countries where they take a more liberal attitude'. However he said that 'cannabis addiction leads to crime and leads, of course, to the use of other harder drugs. Legislators have made these laws and we can't flagrantly break these laws.'
He said the total value of the drugs was €131,000 but noted that O'Neill had cooperated with the gardai. There was also a probation report before the court which he said showed 'insight' and that 'whatever his motivation, however altruistic, this is a crime.'
He said he accepted that O'Neill wasn't attempting to gain financially from the cannabis and 'knew full well the huge negative side of the drugs industry'.
Judge Hickson said that O'Neill no longer cultivates cannabis and 'doesn't intend to return to this'. The probation report indicated the defendant was at low risk of re-offending.
Judge Hickson imposed a five year prison sentence which he suspended for five years. He also adjourned the case until January 12 to see if O'Neill was suitable for community service. He said that if this were the case he would direct him to complete 240 hours.