Saturday 10 December 2016

Former All-Ireland boxing medalist and brother sentenced to two years after being caught 'red handed' harvesting cannabis plants worth almost €150,000

By Nicola Donnelly

Published 10/07/2015 | 16:41

Francis O'Donnell (33) of Meakstown Close in Finglas.
Francis O'Donnell (33) of Meakstown Close in Finglas.

A former All-Ireland boxing medalist and his brother have been sentenced to two years after being caught “red handed” harvesting 179 cannabis plants valued at almost €150,000.

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Simon (37) and Francis (33) O'Donnell and two other men were caught by gardaí clipping branches off the mature cannabis plants in a boarded up house in Finglas.

Both men, who are volunteer boxing coaches, claimed they were being paid “an ounce of cannabis per hour of harvesting they worked.”

Along with the 179 mature cannabis plants, a further 65 cannabis plants which were in the early stages of growth were found in the house.

Simon O'Donnell of St Philomena's Park, Ballycoolin Road in Dublin 15 and Francis O'Donnell of Meakstown Close in Finglas pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to unlawful possession of a total of 244 cannabis plants with a value of €195,000 at a house in Meakstown Close on June 21, 2014.

Garda Christopher Sweeney told the court at around noon he went to the house and got a strong smell of cannabis from the outside.

He said the windows and back door were boarded up but the door was open. On entering the house he saw Simon sitting in the hallway using a scissors to cut branches off cannabis plants.

“He stopped clipping the plants when I went into the house but then continued with the clipping of the leaves,” said Gda Sweeney.

He said three rooms in the house were full of cannabis plants some of which were mature and some in their early stages of growth. Fans, lights, a water tank and plant food were found with the plants.

Gda Sweeney agreed with defence counsel for Simon McDonnell, Michael Bowman BL, that the brothers did not have a key to the house.

Mr Bowman said Simon, who has six children and coaches boxing at Three Bridges Boxing Club, was heavily dependant on cannabis and prescription medication at the time.

He said Simon has also been involved in charity events raising money for Temple Street Children's Hospital.

Defence counsel for Francis, Dominic McGinn SC, said the father of three, who won an All-Ireland medal for boxing when he was younger, also coaches young people in boxing. He said he used drugs on a recreational level when his father passed away.

Both brothers also starred in documentaries made by Scratch Films Ltd on the travelling community which have won international awards.

On sentencing the two brothers to two years in prison each, Judge Martin Nolan noted the men “are well regarded in their own community” and that they were “lower cogs in the drug producing enterprise who were rewarded in a certain way for harvesting the cannabis.”

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