Sunday 25 March 2018

Former Ireland and Premier League footballer jailed for transporting €115k of cannabis

The Courts of Criminal Justice
The Courts of Criminal Justice

Sonya McLean

A father of one who played for Ireland as a teenager and was later signed as a youth by a English premiership club has been jailed for three years for transporting €115,000 worth of cannabis.

Keith Farrelly (40) of Swans Nest Road, Kilbarrack, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to having 5.7 Kg of cannabis worth an estimated €115,945 on September 9, 2014. His two previous convictions are for public order and holding a mobile phone while driving.

Garda James McGeough told Gerardine Small BL, prosecuting, that gardaí had Farrelly under surveillance, following a tip off, and spotted him leaving an apartment in Baldoyle. He drove off in a Nissan Almera after putting a shopping bag in the boot of the car.

He was followed as far as Newlands Cross when gardaí moved in while he was stopped at traffic lights.

A search of the car led to the discovery of 1.6 Kg of cannabis herb, worth €32,000, in the shopping bag.

A follow up search of the apartment led to the discovery of a further 4.1 Kg of cannabis worth an estimated value of €84,000 in a locked press in the hallway.

Sean Gillane SC, defending, told Judge Martin Nolan that his client and his two brothers held a record for the most members of the one family playing for Ireland at the same time.

He handed in a number of press cuttings into court showing Farrelly, as a 15-year-old, on his way to London to sign for Queen Park Rangers.

Mr Gillane said although Farrelly had “spectacular potential as young boy” QPR ultimately let him go and he returned to Ireland. He didn't complete his schooling but began to work until “the work dried up”, counsel said.

He told Judge Nolan that the mother of Farrelly's daughter died when the child was four years old and although her grandmother raised her, he had continued his commitment to the child.

A number of letters and testimonials were handed into court including a letter from his daughter's grandmother and the chairperson of his local football club, where Mr Gillane said Farrelly “is willing to use his skills and ability to inspire others”.

Mr Gillane submitted that Farrelly had a low level involvement in the offence and didn't benefit from his role. He said it was accepted by gardaí that he was in genuine fear of those higher up the chain.

Judge Nolan accepted Farrelly was under pressure because of a gambling debt that others became aware of and that he believed his daughter was being threatened by those parties.

He noted that Farrelly had “no relevant record”, had made admissions and was “the lowest cog in relation to this enterprise” but he said he was a mature man at the time.

“He had a decision to make and he failed to make the right decision,” Judge Nolan said before he imposed a three year jail term.

Gda McGeough confirmed that Farrelly was arrested and made full admission during interview. He said he had agreed to transport the drugs in order to pay off a gambling debt.

He refused to name the owner of the drugs out of fear for his own safety and that of his family.

Gda McGeough agreed with Mr Gillane that gardaí were satisfied that Farrelly's account of how he became involved in the enterprise was true and that the fear he expressed was also genuine.

He agreed that he had never previously been on the garda radar.

Gda McGeough also accepted a suggestion from counsel that while “people close to him and around him got sucked into criminal offending he stood out as an individual who was able to maintain a law abiding lifestyle”.

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