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Friday 19 September 2014

FF runs for cover after TD's plea not to jail drug dealer

Barry Duggan and Niall O'Connor

Published 19/06/2014 | 02:30

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Fianna Fail Justice spokesperson Niall Collins
Fianna Fail Justice spokesperson Niall Collins

FIANNA Fail was running for cover last night after it was revealed the party's justice spokesman appealed to a judge not to jail a drug dealer.

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The party's justice spokesman Niall Collins wrote a letter on headed paper urging a judge not to impose a jail sentence on a criminal who was caught with drugs during a garda surveillance operation.

The handwritten letter was handed to a judge dealing with the case of Hugo Porter, who has a previous conviction for assault.

A Circuit Criminal Court judge jailed another man who was arrested in the same operation for three years but delayed sentencing in the case of Porter after being given the TD's letter.

Last night Fianna Fail and party leader Micheal Martin refused to comment on Mr Collins' actions.

Mr Collins, a Limerick TD and nephew of former Justice Minister Gerry Collins, was not contactable yesterday and did not return calls on the matter.

A Fianna Fail spokesperson said Mr Collins would not be making a statement.

"The party is not going to comment on it at this time either, because the court case is ongoing," the spokesperson said.

An experienced barrister, John O'Sullivan, who was prosecuting on behalf of the State at the court case where the letter from Mr Collins was produced, objected to it.

He remarked that such letters from TDs were "once common practice before, but thankfully it stopped".

Limerick Circuit Criminal Court this week heard that Hugo Porter (40) of St Patrick’s Villas, Castleconnell, Limerick, who is a widowed father of four children, and Alan Lysaght (39) from Scanlon Park in Castleconnell, admitted having €17,500 worth of cannabis in a field in Limerick for sale or supply on June 24, 2011.

Lysaght was jailed for three years with the final year suspended but Porter’s sentencing was adjourned. Porter’s solicitor, Michael Collins, handed the letter to Judge Carroll Moran.

The letter from Niall Collins was written last month and urged that Hugo Porter should not receive a prison sentence for the sake of his children.

It immediately attracted a reaction from the prosecuting counsel, John O’Sullivan BL, who led the State’s case against Porter. Mr O’Sullivan urged the court not to attach any weight to a letter submitted to the court on behalf of a defendant from a public representative.

“Independent of that letter, the court has enough other evidence to consider what is appropriate,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

Porter has previously served a two-year suspended prison sentence handed down to him in Ennis Circuit Criminal Court for assault where he produced a broken glass. Judge Moran sentenced him for this matter in September 2009 when he was bound to the peace for two years and ordered to pay the victim €3,000 in compensation.

Porter, unemployed for the last two years, has previous convictions for road traffic offences including dangerous driving and failure to stop when directed to do so by a garda in September 2006.

Niall Collins was in the Dail yesterday but was not responding to |queries on the matter from the Irish Independent.

Porter’s wife died earlier this year. Peace commissioner Frank Ryan, from Castleconnell, Co Limerick told Judge Moran on Monday that he has known the Porters for a long time and said: “Hugo has been a terrific father to those four children since their mother died.” The children are aged 10, nine, six and five.

Children

Mr Ryan said that he does not “condone drugs, but I am asking you for leniency because jailing Hugo would be an awful loss for those children”.

Judge Moran was told that the children had been in receipt of counselling from Console and that in particular one of the children had taken the death of his mother “very badly”.

Adjourning the sentencing of Porter, the judge said that he had to consider the possible activation of the suspended sentence for the previous Ennis assault case and an appropriate sentence for this drugs issue.

He said he was being asked to consider the impact of jailing the father of four vulnerable children in an exceptional case where the entire community has rallied around the family.

The matter was adjourned until October 10 next when a report from the appropriate Child and Welfare family agency would be produced before the court. Judge Moran said Porter was “not out of the woods yet”.

Irish Independent

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