A Dublin father-of-five who claimed he would have been shot if he had refused to hold over half a million worth of drugs has escaped jail.
Gary Anderson (33) of Cherry Orchard Avenue, Ballyfermot, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possessing €543,516 worth of the drug for sale or supply on April 5, 2013.
Anderson told gardaí he was approached by strangers in the street who asked him to hold the drugs and said they knew where his children went to school.
“They know everything about me, everything. I'd no choice. I'm a dead man when I get out of here,” he said on his arrest.
Judge Mary Ellen Ring accepted Anderson had been under “severe pressure” and gave him a fully suspended seven year sentence. She said she had imposed seven years to mark the seriousness of the offence involving what is often a “gateway drug”.
“A suspended sentence is not one which disappears into the ether,” the judge warned.
She added that such sentences are “very live” until the suspension period expires. Judge Ring ordered that Anderson undergoes 18 months Probation Service supervision and is of good behaviour for seven years.
Garda Adrian Eustace told Sinead McMullen BL, prosecuting, that a warrant was obtained to search Anderson's home.
Gardaí found four rucksacks containing cannabis resin under the bed in a downstairs bedroom. Further slabs of the drug were discovered wrapped in cling film in a wardrobe.
Rolls of cling film and brown tape were also seized, along with four mobile phones.
When asked by gardaí what was in the bags, Anderson replied, “Pollen, was it? I don't know.”
He said a couple of days after he met the strangers in town, bags of cannabis were dropped at his door and he hid them under the bed.
“If I didn't hold it, I was going to get shot,” he said.
Anderson said he wasn't “cutting it up or dishing it out,” and that he didn't know whether he was going to be paid for holding the drugs.
He denied that he was a drug dealer and insisted he was “an ordinary bloke, a family man”. He told gardaí he smoked about €50 worth of hash a week.
The court heard he has four previous convictions for road traffic offences, all relating to the same incident in 2002.
Dominic McGinn SC, defending, told the court that a bullet was fired through Anderson's window about six months after the offence.
“It indicates the level of threat he was under,” said Mr McGinn.
He said three of Anderson’s children have genetic blood disorders including haemophilia.
The court heard that Anderson worked a number of jobs but has been unemployed for the last number of years due to the recession.
His partner's father, UK national Edward Rowley, told the court that he has offered to help the family move to Kent and give Anderson a job in his scrap metal business.
He said Anderson has been addicted to cannabis for about twenty years but has been drug-free since he began a rehabilitation programme with the Matt Talbot Community Trust.
Programme Manager of the Trust Mark Kavanagh took to the stand and vouched for Anderson's “consistent” efforts at rehabilitation.
Judge Ring commented that the profit makers in the drugs trade never come before the court and that people are more scared of them than they are of the courts.
“Without a doubt, the only justice they get is from their peers in the street,” said Mr Kavanagh.
He added that to reveal the identity of those higher up in the drug trade would be to “sign your death warrant”.
Judge Ring said Anderson put himself, his partner and their children at risk by bringing drugs into his home.
“Drug dealers are not benevolent people. If you lose their product, they get angry,” she said.
She added that Anderson should have been thinking about the example he was setting his children, but noted that he has done well and is now free of cannabis.