'Crime of utmost gravity' - driver jailed for having €3.5m worth of drugs in van
A MOTORIST was caught with €3.5m worth of drugs in his van when gardai stopped him for driving while using his mobile phone, a court heard.
At Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, James Manning, of Belclare Avenue, Ballymun, pleaded guilty to possession of 177kg of cannabis last December 1.
Judge Francis Comerford sentenced him to nine years in jail with the final three suspended for three years.
Gda Thomas Barrett told prosecutor John Byrne that an officer in Offaly became suspicious of a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van parked outside a house and began following as it drove towards Dublin.
He contacted Lucan gardai, who dispatched Gda Barrett to wait on its arrival on the N4.
When his car pulled up beside the van, he saw Manning (49) was using his mobile phone and signalled him to pull up.
In a search, 15 cardboard boxes were found containing 177kg of cannabis in bags with an approximate street value of €3.5m.
Manning has 29 previous convictions, including one for false imprisonment, one for possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life and one for dangerous driving causing death.
Gda Barrett agreed with Giollaiosa O Lideadha, defending, that his previous offending was linked to “alcohol abuse”.
Mr O Lideadha said Manning had struggled with alcohol and had been homeless.
He stopped drinking in 2013 and had a job with Ikea at the time of his arrest.
Mr O Lideadha said Manning had agreed to transport the cannabis to pay off a drug debt.
Judge Comerford said this was “a crime of utmost gravity” and that without mitigation the appropriate sentence would have been 12 years in prison.