Sunday 19 August 2018

Former equestrian centre manager who was 'renowned in the world of horses' has prison sentence cut

Timothy Laffey appeared for sentencing at Mullingar Circuit Court sitting in Tullamore
Timothy Laffey appeared for sentencing at Mullingar Circuit Court sitting in Tullamore

Alison O'Riordan

A former equestrian centre manager who was "renowned in the world of horses" before pleading guilty to the possession of over €6 million worth of cannabis resin, has had his six-and-a-half year prison sentence cut to five years on appeal.

Raymond Molloy (55) previously of Hollywood, Co Wicklow spent 11 years on the run, living and working in the Isle of Wight, before being extradited back to Ireland last year and pleading guilty to possession of the drugs for sale or supply.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that, as part of a surveillance operation, gardai stopped a van driven by Molloy in Coolock and recovered 498kg of cannabis resin with a street value at the time of €6.34 million.

Molloy, who has no previous convictions, had been approached by a number of individuals, who proposed establishing the Slade Valley Equestrian Centre. A number of threats had been issued to Molloy and his horses because of his in depth knowledge of the industry.

Sentencing him to six-and-a-half years in prison in May 2017, Judge Martin Nolan said Molloy was mature enough when the offence occurred to decide whether or not to involve himself in the operation.

Opening an appeal against the severity of his sentence today, Molloy’s barrister Orla Crowe SC, said her client was a “very unusual offender” who made no gain in his thirty minute involvement in this “calamitous” event. She said Molloy had made a “catastrophic” error of judgement as he was under considerable pressure.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Darragh Hayes BL, said although Molloy had a “limited” involvement in the event, he had an essential role and he had received a significant discount for his mitigation.

The Court of Appeal reduced the six-and-a-half year sentence to five years today following a successful appeal.

Giving judgement in the three-judge court, Mr Justice John Edwards said there were two grounds of appeal put forward by Molloy; severity of sentence and insufficient account taken by the trial judge for mitigation.

Mr Justice Edwards said the appellant’s involvement was limited to thirty minutes and there was no evidence that he gained financially from the transaction. Molloy was not involved in the overall offence and had been put under considerable pressure to take part, the court heard.

Furthermore, he said the effect on Molloy’s health had been profound and the court accepted he had shown deep remorse. He noted Molloy’s mitigating factors which included his guilty plea, the absence of previous convictions, his mental health difficulties, his remorse, his cooperation and he was at no risk of reoffending.

Mr Justice Edwards said no headline figure had been nominated by the sentencing judge before applying a discount for mitigating factors present. He said it was clear in constructing the sentence that the judge had not followed the Court of Appeal's best practice and if the sentence had been better explained this court might have been able to uphold it.

He said for the trial judge to have sentenced Molloy to six and a half years, he would have had to have started somewhere north of nine years, which the Court of Appeal considered too high. The appropriate headline sentence was seven and a half years, he said.

Mr Justice Edwards, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Hedigan, said the court would quash the sentence and resentence Molloy to five years in prison. There was no need to suspend any part of the sentence as Molloy did not need to be rehabilitated as he was unlikely to offend again, he added.

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