Wednesday 18 September 2019

Homeless father-of-five chose to grow cannabis rather than sleep on the streets, court hears

Alan Lynch (58) jailed for ten years for drug possession

(Stock image)
(Stock image)

Aoife Nic Ardghail

A homeless man who chose “the lesser of two evils” by acting as gardener in a cannabis grow house instead of sleeping on the streets has been jailed for ten years.

Defense counsel Michael Bowman SC said Alan Lynch (58) found himself sleeping rough after being released from prison after another sentence for possessing drugs.

Mr Bowman said his client became drug and alcohol dependent in order to sleep on the streets, but got involved with the grow house when he started to physically deteriorate.

Mr Bowman submitted to Judge Melanie Greally that the father-of-five had realised he wouldn't have lasted much longer living rough and chose "the lesser of two evils" by re-offending.

Lynch, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to cultivating cannabis worth a potential €763,560 under Section 15A of the Misuse of Drugs Act, at Keelogues House, Heronford Lane, Shankill, Dublin, on June 14, 2016.

He has 19 previous convictions for road traffic offences and one other Section 15A drugs possession, for which he received a four year sentence in 2012.

Judge Greally said she had been "left with no option" but to impose the mandatory minimum ten years in jail for the grow house offence.

She said this was in light of Lynch's previous conviction under Section 15A of the Act.

She said because addiction was the root of Lynch's inability to rehabilitate himself, she was prepared to list the sentence for review after six years from when he went into custody.

She said the issue of serving or suspending the balance of the sentence can be addressed at this point.

The court heard Lynch has been in custody since his arrest in January of this year.

Mr Bowman said his client had nowhere to go and nobody to turn to after his release from prison for the previous drugs offence, due to his marriage breakdown and former friends drifting away.

He submitted that all Lynch had wanted was "warmth, shelter and a dry night's sleep" and so viewed the grow house opportunity as "the lesser of two evils".

Garda Des Molloy told Lisa Dempsey BL, prosecuting, that he and colleagues began investigating the Heronford Lane address after a blue Mercedes van crashed into a wall a short distance away.

Witnesses told gardaí that the blue van had attended at the address frequently and that Lynch, who was seen in the van, also lived in the area.

Gda Molloy said during the crash inquiry, colleagues went to the address and got a strong smell of cannabis from a vent at the rear of the property.

The gardaí also noted blacked out windows and heard a fan humming.

They set up surveillance on the address and got a warrant to search the Mercedes. During the investigation, gardaí found cannabis plants at various stages of growth in the house's basement.

They also discovered lights, vents and compost soil in a lorry container outside the property.

Forensic analysis later revealed that of the 917 cannabis plants seized, 501 had visible flowering tops and were ready for harvest.

The court heard that 416 plants had a potential value of €800 per plant given their early stage of development, while the 501 mature plants had an actual market value of that amount.

Gda Molloy said the 1.5kg of cannabis also found during the raid was worth €29,960.

He said a co-accused who also acted as a gardener in the operation received a four and a half year sentence with the final two suspended.

Gda Molloy told Ms Dempsey that Lynch had signed a lease using his own name and driving license to rent the house from the owner. There was also CCTV footage of him paying a €740 ESB bill at the local post office.

He said he arrested Lynch after he and colleagues tracked him down to a Kildare premises in January this year.

Lynch initially denied involvement in the grow house, but later admitted his role and said he had done it to get a roof over his head.

The court heard Lynch left the Heronford Lane premises the day of the van crash.

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