Monday 20 November 2017

Army corporal who told gardai he bought cannabis for dying wife avoids criminal conviction

Corporal Damian Flood at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court where he has avoided a criminal conviction
Pic: Court Collins.
Corporal Damian Flood at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court where he has avoided a criminal conviction Pic: Court Collins.

Jessica Magee and Declan Brennan

An army corporal who told gardaí he bought cannabis to ease the pain of his dying wife has avoided a criminal conviction.

Corporal Damian Flood (39) was caught with €9,814 worth of cannabis herb near Nutgrove in Dublin on March 15 2013. He initially told gardaí he was moving the drugs to pay off a debt of €40,000.

However, the widowed father-of-two later said he brought the the drugs after online research showed him juiced cannabis added to food could act as a pain reliever.

Flood told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that he wanted to ease the suffering of his wife, who was terminally ill with breast cancer. She died some five months later.

Flood of Scribblestown Avenue, Finglas, Dublin pleaded guilty to possessing the drug for sale or supply.

He apologised to the court, saying he was “embarrassed” to be there. “It was a moment of madness,” he said.

The court heard Flood has served over 18 years with the Defence Forces, including several overseas postings, and is three years from retirement.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring said that Flood's explanation that he wanted to use the drugs for pain relief was not unreasonable and that it was used lawfully for this in other countries.

She said that testimonials handed into court showed Flood to be a man of good character with an exemplary record from the army. She said she could treat this offence as an aberration and noted that Flood was under considerable financial pressure at the time.

She said that in light of his personal circumstances including the service he has done for his country she was applying the Probation Act in lieu of a sentence of imprisonment. This means no conviction was recorded against him.

Detective Garda Colin Tighe told Melanie Greally BL, prosecuting, that gardaí became suspicious when they saw a car driving erratically in the Rathfarnham area. When they stopped the car, the driver seemed very nervous and on edge and there was a strong smell of cannabis herb.

There was a knuckle duster and a can of pepper spray in the car, which the driver said he kept for self-protection when he worked as a taxi driver. Gardaí found a vacuum packed bag containing cannabis herb in a shopping bag in the car boot.

“It's only grass, I was trying to dump it, I can't tell you where it came from,” said Flood.

Lorcan Staines BL, defending, said Flood has no previous convictions and co-operated with gardaí.

Flood said he initially lied to the gardaí that he was moving the drugs to pay off a debt because he didn't want to implicate his dying wife in his arrest.

He said that after doing some research online, he made a few calls and got a parcel delivered. When the parcel arrived it seemed to be worth about €5,000, whereas he only wanted to spend up to €500.

Flood told the dealer he couldn't afford it and had been in the process of returning the parcel when he was arrested. A probation report said Flood was at low risk of re-offending.

Mr Staines said Flood needed a further three years in the army to avail of a pension, and that the outcome of the case could have serious financial consequences for him.

If Flood got a prison sentence he would be immediately discharged from the army. If he got a suspended sentence it would be up to the General Army Commander to decide but it was “likely” he would be discharged.

Reference letters for Flood were handed into court, including one from a retired army captain noting that Flood had served overseas including a mission in Kosovo. Another letter from a coach at St Andrew's Boxing Club in Cabra, which Flood runs, praised his hard work and dedication in helping young people over the years.

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