A MAN who took two children “as cover” to a €400,000 drug deal has received an eight year prison sentence with the last 18 months suspended.
Keith Groves (32) was arrested after a garda surveillance team observed him guiding a van containing 70kg of cannabis into Dublin city.
Groves of Cloonlara Road, Finglas pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession to cannabis for sale or supply at Sycamore Park in Finglas on March 29, 2011.
He was one of four men arrested in the operation. Two of his co-accused have already received 5 year jail terms.
Judge Mary Ellen Ring said that a “particularly disturbing” aspect of the crime was the involvement of two very young children, who were in the car with Groves and a co-accused.
Detective Garda Aisling Hobbs of the Garda National Drugs Unit told prosecuting counsel Michael Bowman BL that the men were seen moving between a hotel in Dundalk and their cars, which were parked in the hotel car park and that they brought the children in and out of the hotel with them.
Judge Ring said that she could only conclude that the children were taken along to be used “as cover for the two adult males”. She said this was “irresponsible in the extreme” and she considered it an aggravating factor in the case.
She also noted that Groves had not co-operated with gardai after his arrest and that he was not under any duress or paying off any drug debts. He entered a guilty plea last December.
She said that his eight previous convictions, all for road traffic offences, were not as serious as this offence.
She noted testimonials from West Finglas boxing club and from Outdoor Adventures Ireland and also Groves’ previous work record. She said he was unemployed because of the downturn in the building sector.
Det Gda Hobbs told Mr Bowman that she led a surveillance operation after getting a tip-off about the importation of a large quantity of cannabis from Liverpool via Northern Ireland.
Her team were monitoring a hotel in Dundalk when they spotted Groves pull up with two children in his car. He later left the car park in convoy with a van and drove towards Dublin. Groves was now a passenger in the car and the two children were in the back.
Garda followed them as they took a maze-like route to the city before stopping in Finglas. From there the van was led by a new car while Groves' vehicle drove off in another direction.
The convoy stopped again shortly afterwards and the men started unloading the bales of cannabis from the van before gardai moved in and arrested them. Groves was also arrested nearby.
Defence counsel, Paul Greene SC, said his client has issues with cocaine and alcohol but is a dedicated family man. He said he has a good work history and pleaded guilty before his trial date which freed up garda resources.