'Drug used for church sacrament' - sect leader
A religious sect leader who claimed he imported a hallucinogenic drug to prepare a revered sacrament for his church's ceremonies has been spared a jail sentence.
Food producer and Santo Daime church leader in Ireland Marcus McCabe (56), from Burdautien, Clones, Co Monaghan, appeared at Dublin District Court to contest a charge under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
He said he believed the prosecution was against the fundamental rights of his church which has its origins in Brazil.
But Judge Gerard Jones said it was illegal according to the law of the land. However, he said he was giving the man a chance and struck out the case but warned "that does not give you a licence to carry on".
He was accused of unlawfully importing 8.5kg of a substance called N,N-Dimethyltryptamine at Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport on November 13, 2014.
The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) had directed summary disposal meaning the case should remain in the district court, which could impose a 12-month sentence for the offence. The substance is also used in the Santo Daime church's ayahuasca sacrament.
Defence solicitor Michael French told the court the substance had a nominal value and came from Brazil. He was instructed by his client that it was a "sacrament".
Garda Liam Mangan told the court Mr McCabe flew in through Dublin Airport but was stopped by customs officers. He had a bag in his possession which contained a certain item and a package was seized and sent for analysis.
"The accused did say he was using this material for a sacrament in his church," Gda Mangan said.
The substance was in a liquid form and no value could be put on it, he added.
Judge Jones enquired about the religion and Mr McCabe got into the witness box to give evidence and explain why he had the liquid substance.
When sworn in he blessed himself and told the court he was a member of the Santo Daime faith, a Christian church originally from Brazil. He said the substance was made into a tea taken with prayers.
Mr French put it to him that gardaí believed it was prohibited and, in reply, Mr McCabe said he felt this was the result of a "misunderstanding".
"I believe this substance is in everyone in this room and is common," he said, adding, "it really is a misunderstanding of the sacrament".
Mr McCabe said it was administered during spiritual and Christian festivals throughout the year. This was done at his special house for church works in Clones and services were usually attended by 15 to 20 people, possibly 25 for a festival.