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Drug baron gets eight months for phone in jail cell

CONVICTED drug dealer John Gilligan was sentenced to a further eight months in prison yesterday after being found guilty of having a mobile phone in his cell.

After 48 District Court appearances and a High Court appeal, the gangster was hit by the additional term for having the phone in Portlaoise Prison on July 30, 2008.

Prison officers organised an early-morning search of his cell after an officer had heard a conversation the previous night.

The phone was found, along with a mobile-phone charger, pills, part of a syringe and two pairs of women's underwear.

Portlaoise District Court was told Gilligan (59) had spent almost a third of his life in prison and had been behind bars for 18 of the last 20 years.

Defence lawyer Niall Flynn claimed that his client had "changed his character" in prison and had even become friendly with some warders.

Judge Gerard Haughton, who presided over the 21-month trial, said he was satisfied that a mobile phone was found in the cell.

Phone records proved the mobile "could only be used by the defendant, thereby establishing possession", he added.

Prior to sentencing, Detective Pat Scully outlined Gilligan's 28 previous convictions. He told the court Gilligan was due for release on April 15, 2013.

Defence lawyer Niall Flynn asked Judge Haughton to consider giving his client a concurrent sentence.

"Of the past 20 years, Mr Gilligan has spent in or around 18 years in custody," he argued. "He has almost spent a third of his life in custody."


Mr Flynn said: "Mr Gilligan has somewhat changed since he went to prison. He has been reduced from a maximum-security prisoner to a medium-security prisoner."

However, the judge told Mr Flynn it was "incumbent on me to order that the sentence be consecutive", adding that if a concurrent sentence were imposed "there would be no deterrent" for prisoners.

He sentenced Gilligan to eight months "to commence on the lawful termination" of his prison sentence.

Meanwhile, gardai have forwarded a file to the DPP, following the discovery of two mobile phones at Portlaoise District Court on March 30, 2010 -- when Gilligan was defending himself in the case.

The trial was halted when gardai cleared the courtroom. A search was conducted and two mobile phones were found.

One is understood to have been taped under a desk, while the second was in a bag containing Gilligan's legal documents.

Gilligan is serving a 22-year sentence. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison for drug offences in 2001.

The sentence was backdated to 1996 as he was detained by British authorities at Heathrow Airport that year, prior to his extradition back to Ireland.

The 28-year sentence was reduced on appeal to 20 years in 2003. In the meantime, in 2002 he was sentenced to a further two years for threatening to kill two prison officers.

Gilligan was acquitted of the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin. One of his gang, hitman Dutchy Holland, was named in court by gardai as the man who shot her. He has since died.

Gang boss Gilligan later claimed in court that his associate John Traynor was responsible for the reporter's murder.

Irish Independent