Thursday 5 December 2019

Father of two caught transporting over €72,000 worth of cocaine given suspended sentence

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Sonya McLean

A father of two and “very productive member” of his local community has been given a suspended sentence after he was caught transporting more than €72,000 worth of cocaine.

Mark McHugh (35) told gardaí he had been forced to pick up the drugs after he lost “a package” months earlier. He had agreed to collect this first package to pay off a €2,000 drug debt he had run up because of his own use of cocaine.

When this package went missing he was told he owed an additional €40,000. He was put under pressure for seven months to transport the cocaine in order to knock €600 off this bigger debt.

McHugh of Wood Avens, Clondalkin, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of the cocaine on Kylemore Road on April 9, 2015. He has two previous convictions for criminal damage and threatening and abusive behaviour from 2007.

Judge Melanie Greally sentenced McHugh to six years in prison which she suspended in full on strict conditions.

She said she had a read a “most impressive collection of documentation” from McHugh's family, neighbours, employers and former colleagues which spoke of “your pro-social existence both in terms of your work life and personal life”.

Judge Greally said it was clear from the testimonials that McHugh had “not put a foot wrong” and had been a “very productive member of the community before you got mixed up in drugs”.

She accepted that gardaí accept the veracity of what he said in interview and that it was out of a “genuine and well justified fear for both and your family's safety” that he agreed to transport the drugs.

Detective Garda Aisling Hobbs agreed with Caroline Biggs SC, defending, that McHugh resisted the pressure he was put under for a number of months but out of fear for his and his family's safety he eventually agreed to pick up the cocaine

Counsel said McHugh was to drop the drugs “to the far side of the Red Cow for someone else to pick up”.

Gda Hobbs told Joseph Barnes BL, prosecuting that McHugh was not on the “garda radar” at the time of his arrest.

She said they were monitoring the progress of another man who was spotted getting into McHugh's car on the Kylemore Road at 3.30pm. The car was stopped minutes later and the cocaine was found under the front seat of the car.

McHugh made admissions in interview and Gda Hobbs said that she was satisfied it was “a credible account”.

Ms Biggs handed a large number of testimonials into court and added that her client had been placed in a position of trust with both friends and employers. She said it was “a once off event borne out in a situation of duress”.

Counsel said her client was a married man with two daughters and was a step-father to his wife's older daughter.

She said he had been working until 2011 when his company went into liquidation and he was made redundant. He was a stay-at-home father who was under financial pressure at the time of his arrest due to his cocaine debt.

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