Monday 24 September 2018

'It reminds me of Breaking Bad' - Students 'becoming drug dealers to fund college', court hears

NUIG (Stock photo)
NUIG (Stock photo)

Ann Healy

College students in Galway are becoming drug dealers as a means of funding their way through college, a court has been told.

“It reminds me of ‘Breaking Bad’,” Judge Mary Fahy said at Galway District Court after hearing evidence against three NUIG students who, in separate and unrelated cases, pleaded guilty to drug dealing offences.

The last of the three students to be dealt with by the court was third year mechanical engineering student, Fintan Canavan (22), with an address in student accommodation at Dun na Coiribe, Headford Road, Galway, who received a six-month prison sentence.

He pleaded guilty to having €4,080 worth of cannabis for sale or supply to others on March 25, 2016. 

Gardai searched his girlfriend’s address at The Stables, College Road, Galway and found the drugs along with a digital weighing scales and €2,000 cash in her bedroom.

Canavan was not there at the time of the raid, but he presented himself at Galway Garda Station three weeks later. He was interviewed and admitted the drugs, the weighing scales and the money were his. He admitted the drugs were for sale or supply to others and also for his own use.

Handing a letter from Canavan’s professor and other references into court, defence solicitor, Gearoid Geraghty said his client was a third year mechanical engineering student at NUIG.

“Well, isn’t that embarrassing? How many students from NUIG were in here today?” Judge Fahy asked.

Mr Geraghty said his client had since got away from the drugs scene completely and the results of a series of clean urine tests were handed into court to prove he was now drug-free.

Mr Geraghty said a conviction would have a serious impact on his Canavan’s future employability and he pointed out his client had no previous convictions.

Judge Fahy said this was a serious offence involving a very significant amount of cannabis.

Garda Orla Flatley, prosecuting, said that while he had co-operated in the Garda investigation, Canavan had come to Garda attention since.

She said he had admitted selling drugs to his friends at the time of this offence.

“He said he wanted to make money for college,” the Garda said.

“It seems to be a growing trend among students,” Mr Geraghty commented.

“Well, if it’s a growing trend, they will have to expand Castlerea Prison,” Judge Fahy replied.

She said Canavan, like the other two students who had been before the court earlier that day for drug-dealing, had been given an opportunity to go to college and they had abused that privilege out of sheer greed. She said they were coming into court expecting to be dealt with leniently because they were going to college.

“Well, I’m sending out a message today,” the judge said, before sentencing Canavan to six months in prison. Leave to appeal the sentence was granted.

Earlier in the day, third year chemistry student, Sean Curran (21), from Co. Meath, was the first of the students to be dealt with.

He pleaded guilty to being found in possession of cannabis, Ecstasy and Ketamine, at his student accommodation in Dun na Coiribe on December 14, 2016. He also pleaded guilty to having the cannabis for sale or supply to others on the same date.

“He is a chemistry student and he’s involved in this.  It reminds me of ‘Breaking Bad’,” Judge Fahy said.

Gardai also found €575 cash, the proceeds of drug dealing, during the raid on Curran’s accommodation.

Defence solicitor, John Martin, said his client was supplying student friends with cannabis and was using it himself. He said the quantities of the other drugs were very small and his client was not addicted to them but he was a regular cannabis user at the time.

He said Curran was now drug-free and was presenting with clear urine tests.

Reading references which were handed into court, Judge Fahy said she wanted to hear from prosecuting Garda, Frank Hand, who was not present in court before finalising the matter.

The judge said Curran came from a wealthy background in Meath and there had been no need for him to deal in drugs.

She adjourned sentence to October 8 for urine analysis test results, a Garda behaviour report and for Garda Hand to give his opinion.

The second student to be dealt with was Jack McDonnell (23), with an address in Dun na Coiribe, who is a law graduate and currently studying for his LLB.  The court heard he had signed for a package containing €1936 worth of cannabis on May 16, 2016.

Customs officials alerted Gardai in Galway that a package containing cannabis had come through the postal system and both Gardai and Customs carried out a controlled delivery of the drugs to McDonnell’s address.

Gardai returned to the address moments later and found the drugs in McDonnell’s bedroom.

He pleaded guilty to having cannabis for sale or supply and to having the drug in his possession on the date in question.

His solicitor, Sean Acton, said somebody else had asked his client to sign for the package.

Garda Flatley said McDonnell told her he knew the package contained drugs when he signed for it.

She said he had not come to Garda attention before or since this incident.

Mr Acton said at the time of the offence, McDonnell had taken a year out after getting a corporate law degree but he was now back studying for his LLB in NUIG.

He said his client did not take drugs and references were handed into court.

Mr Acton said his client had made a huge mistake and he asked for sentence to be adjourned for 12 months, adding he would be shocked if his client came to Garda attention again.

Judge Fahy said that in order to consider the case fully she needed proper testimonials and proof that McDonnell was in college and doing the course he said he was doing. She adjourned the matter to next week’s court for that purpose.

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