'Five years in jail? It's the best thing that ever happened to me'
A LONG prison sentence given to a New Ross man saved his life and was the best thing that ever happened to him, the Circuit Criminal Court was told in Waterford last week.
Once a chronic cocaine addict, Edward Barron, aged 34, of Deerpark, New Ross, was freed after serving five years of a 10-year jail term for possession of cannabis resin for sale or supply had the final five years suspended by Judge Alan Mahon in a successful review of his case.
The judge was told Barron was a reformed man who had turned his life around and had obtained qualfications while in prison.
He taught himself to cook, picking up tips from TV cookery programmes and ended up cooking for the officers' mess in prison.
Members of Barron's family were in court and embraced him in the public gallery on his release.
Gardaí had found Barron in possession of 48.56 grams of cannabis with a street value of €340,000 on September 20, 2007.
Barrister Caroline Letham, instructed by solicitor Martin Lawlor, said from the very start Barron made admissions, accepted his responsibilities and pleaded guilty on June 10, 2008. But sentence was postponed by Wexford Circuit Court on March 3, 2009, because he had to undergo an operation.
Judge Alice Doyle applied the minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison for the offence. During sentence it was put to the court that he was a chronic cocaine addict and had a significant amount of debt.
The delay in sentencing was due to the fact that his addiction was so chronic that he required reconstruction on his nose. At the time of the offence he was 30 years of age and would be 35 next October. Threats had been made against his family and he was in fear of his life. He had no previous convictions apart for some road traffic matters.
The court accepted that he was a man who was not very good at drug dealing and was pursuing it to pay off his debt.
Judge Doyle had stated that it was a case that warranted a review after five years when one half of the minimum mandatory sentence was served. That occurred on March 3 last and was the reason why it was now before the court.
Ms Letham said she was instructed that her client was now drug-free and had received drug counselling while in prison. He dealt with his drug problem and said the prison sentence that he received in 2011 was the best thing that ever happened to him and it saved his life.
Since then he turned his life around and he gained a number of qualifications in prison. Initially he was a 'washer-up' but he was interested in cooking and taught himself to cook and ended up cooking for the officer's mess.
The court heard he accepted full responsibility and blamed nobody else but himself and he took his sentence 'on the chin' and served his time and rehabilitated himself.
Judge Mahon said the drug offence was very serious but the defendant had rehabilitated himself and improved himself through education and training and was now equipped to live as a respectable citizen.
The judge suspended the remaining five years of the prison sentence for five years on the defendant entering into a bond.
New Ross Standard