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Sold drugs to pay for Masters

A 26-year-old man, described by Judge Patrick Durcan as being “highly skilled, highly trained, highly intelligent”, was given two five-month concurrent prison sentences, after pleading to drugs charges.

Arthur Steffenberg, with addresses at Dún na Rí, Ennis and Lough Road, The Lough, Cork, claimed he had got involved in the sale of drugs because of the high costs involved in pursuing a Masters in architecture.

Last week in the district court, he faced charges of having possession of cannabis herb and ecstasy, as well as two charges of having the drugs for sale or supply, at Ballymaquiggin, Ennis on October 15, 2013.

A Latvian national, the defendant was described as “not the usual defendant” that comes before the court.

It was also stated that a lecturer of the defendant had been so impressed with him, that he had offered him employment in his firm, while he has provided illustrations for a book that will be published in the near future.

Judge Durcan noted that the defendant had received the benefit of the Probation Act following a charge in 2008 and another charge had been struck out after a donation was made to the court poor box.

He said that he would now impose a custodial sentence, noting that the defendant had much greater advantages in life than some of those who come to the attention of the courts. He said that sometimes he hates to impose sentences on people who have had very little opportunity but that Mr Steffenberg has enjoyed opportunities.

In evidence, the defendant said that architecture is a particularly demanding course in terms of finance, with things like foreign trips and supplies required. On many occasions, he said he had approached family for money but said “it’s very awkward to ask again and again”.

Regarding the charges he added, “I take full responsibility and I’m really sorry for it”.
Judge Durcan said he had been involved in transporting illicit substances from one place to another, saying he had been “a cog in this very vicious machine”.

He said he was cognisant of the effect of a conviction but noted that the defendant had been given chances before. Regarding Mr Steffenberg’s circumstances, Judge Durcan described him as “someone who has had difficulties in life but has also had advantages”.He said this puts him in a separate category to individuals who have no discernible advantages in life.

On the two charges of possession of drugs for sale or supply, the defendant was given concurrent five-month sentences. For the two charges of possession, he was given two €350 fines.

“I make this order with great regret. I don’t like sending a man of great promise to prison,” said Judge Durcan.

Recognisances were fixed in the event of an appeal.

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