A prison officer who was jailed for five years for smuggling cocaine, cannabis and tablets worth over €20,000 in to Mountjoy prison has had his jail term reduced by two years on appeal.
In March of last year Jarlath Walsh (42), with a last address in Dublin 9, was sentenced to five years by Judge Patricia Ryan having pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the possession of cocaine, cannabis and cannabis resin with intent to supply at the prison.
He also pleaded guilty to possession of thousands of tablets with intent to supply, including flurazepam, diazepam and oxymetholone.
Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell, presiding at the Court of Criminal Appeal, this evening said the court found the five-year sentence imposed was “perhaps too high” and would set it aside.
He said that in circumstances where a psychological report indicated Walsh was an “easily led” and “vulnerable” person, some element of sentence supervision would be appropriate, which would require Walsh to be in constant contact with somebody outside his family circle to reinforce the lessons he had learned.
Mr Justice O’Donnell said the court would substitute the sentence of five years with one of four years imprisonment, while the final year of that sentence would be suspended for a period of three years on condition that Walsh be of good behaviour and keep the peace.
Counsel for Walsh, Mr Michael O’Higgins SC, had argued that Judge Ryan did not engage with the psychological report on Walsh, which identified him as a vulnerable person.
He said that although the trial judge said she took account of the various mitigating factors, including the psychological report, the “mere acknowledgement” of the existence of the report fell “considerably short” of what was required in this case.
The father-of-two told gardai he only tried to smuggle the drugs into the prison where he worked because he was "afraid for himself and his family".
Walsh said he had been forced to deliver the drugs after being threatened by men who jumped into his car with photographs of his family.
There was evidence that gardai found it difficult to investigate Walsh's claims because the details were vague and the story could not be proved or disproved.
Mr Justice O’Donnell said the appeal court was unable to give much if any credit to the account of the offending proffered by Walsh.
He said Walsh’s intent to supply within the controlled environment of the prison was to “entirely subvert the regime of discipline” which the prison was designed to impose and gave rise to serious difficulties for the prison authorities.
Mr Justice O’Donnell said the offence would merit a prison sentence but was “brought to another level” by a virtue of the fact that Walsh was a prison officer, and had engaged in undermining the very work he was employed to do.
He said that Walsh had betrayed his trust as a prison officer, and had disgraced his decent family and the position in society which he had earned.