Ennis Circuit Court heard how gardaí operating a traffic check point in Shannon seized more than an uninsured vehicle when, in a subsequent search of the vehicle, almost €100,000 worth of cannabis was uncovered.
Alan Dowie, 29, of 54 Rossbracken, Shannon pleaded guilty to having €97,512 worth of cannabis for sale or supply at Clonmoney West on March 16, 2016 and with having possession of cannabis herb at his address on the same date.
Garda Barry Doherty outlined at Ennis Circuit Criminal Court on Tuesday that he, along with other gardaí, had started a traffic check point at Clonmoney West when he saw a van making a U-turn on approach and head off in the direction of Sixmilebridge. They pursued the van and indicated for it to pull over.
He spoke with the accused, who was the driver, and there was also a passenger in the van. Dowie told gardaí he had been loaned the van to move furniture and that he had no insurance.
Garda Doherty noted there was no disc displayed on the van and informed Dowie that they would be seizing the van on the basis that it was uninsured.
The court heard that when an inspection was carried out of the van at Shannon Garda Station, two paper bags in the rear of the van were found to contain two clear packs of cannabis, weighing 4.8kg, with an estimated value of €97,512.
Garda Doherty said, later that day, Dowie came to the garda station and produced a certificate of insurance. He also had cash with him for the release of the van.
“On the basis of what we discovered, we arrested him. He was visibly nervous and he looked shook,” Garda Doherty said.
In a follow-up search of Dowie’s home, further quantities of cannabis were uncovered. This included a small amount of cannabis in a shot glass in the sitting room and a plastic zip-lock bag containing cannabis in the hot press. This totalled 28g, with an estimated value of €560.
Garda Doherty said Dowie was interviewed three times. He firstly said he had the van to collect furniture and had no knowledge of the drugs. He later admitted that he was collecting the drugs to pay off a drug debt and that he had dragged the other person in the van along.
“He took all responsibility,” Garda Doherty said. He explained that there had been a lot of phone traffic between Dowie and the owner of the van and, at this point, he accepted “that he was collecting cannabis”.
The court heard Dowie has six previous convictions for road traffic offences, criminal damage and public order.
Andrew Sexton, SC, said his client is the father of one child. He is a painter and decorator but is currently unemployed.
Mr Sexton, SC, said his client was a heavy user of cannabis and cocaine and that he suffers from asthma and diabetes. He said he had a certain aversion to doctors and hospitals and therefore he had no reports to produce to the court to outline the conditions in more detail.
Mrs Geraldine Dowie, the defendant’s mother, gave evidence that her son had got into difficulties with drugs following the death of a friend, a death he had “never accepted”.
She said her son had “a fear of hospitals”.
“I’ve noticed him going downhill very badly,” she added.
Mrs Dowie explained that she had a frank conversation with her son in which he accepted that he was most likely going to prison and that he showed a willingness to get rehabilitated.
Mr Sexton said there were elements of the crime which were “amatuerish” in that he was driving an uninsured van and returned to the garda station himself. He said Dowie admits acting as a drug courier but that this was cannabis and wasn’t a more insidious drugs.
Due to the quantity of the drugs involved, there is a prescriptive mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and Judge Gerald Keys, presiding, inquired as to whether there were any grounds that would exempt the court from imposing the mandatory sentence.
Mr Sexton, SC, outlined that there was an early plea, that the van was picked up very soon after collecting the drugs and that there was no evidence of deep planning associated with the crime. There was also no evidence of tick lists, scales or evidence of wealth.
He said his client is a drug user and “a victim of the drug world” in that he was doing this to repay a debt.
He also highlighted his poor health but he couldn’t outline it any further than Mrs Dowie.
Judge Keys said, “What do I do about a man who has a phobia of doctors to the extent that it deprives the court of insight into his health or addiction”.
The State recalled Garda Doherty who said it was his belief from Dowie’s appearance and manner that he was still using and abusing cocaine and cannabis and that his health appeared to have deteriorated since he first encountered him.
Judge Keys said in light of what he had heard, he wanted to consider the matter further and reserved judgment until April 25.
He warned Dowie, “the value of the drugs merits a custodial sentence”.
By Carol Byrne