A TAXI driver who began growing cannabis in his basement and selling it due to his €1.7m mortgage debt has escaped jail.
Alan Delaney (48) fell into "dire financial straits" with mortgages on his home and two rental properties after his taxi and rental income diminished.
He began receiving "threatening" letters from mortgage institutions, a court was told.
A casual cannabis user who had been growing the drug for his own use, Delaney expanded to sell to others but was producing more than he was able to sell to acquaintances.
Delaney, of Merville Road, Stillorgan, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of drugs for sale or supply and cultivation of cannabis at his home on February 21, 2012.
The married father of eight has no previous convictions.
Judge Patrick McCartan accepted that Delaney had never been in trouble before but said: "Haven't you gone in at the deep end, having decided to break the law?"
Garda Liam Healy told the court that when gardai arrived at Delaney's home he directed them to a cannabis-growing facility in the basement.
Gardai discovered 47 plants at various stages of maturity and with a potential value of €18,800, two bags of cannabis for Delaney's own use and a further 11 bags of the drug in a locker. The bagged cannabis had a street value of €9,253.
Judge McCartan accepted that Delaney was a "sole trader", selling within his own circle, and imposed a three-year sentence, which he suspended in full. He commended Garda Healy on his "good police work".
Edmund Sweetman, defending, told the court that Delaney ran his own taxi business and was the owner of his own home, as well as two rental properties that he had purchased during the "boom years".
However, the income from his taxi business and the rental income had severely reduced in recent years, putting him in "dire financial straits".
He said Delaney had started growing cannabis for his own use but after he fell into "financial woes" he expanded his growing and began selling it.
Mr Sweetman said his client deeply regretted the offence.