Wednesday 24 October 2018

Man (33) found not guilty of posting drugs to prison in pair of runners

Trial told man (33) admitted to Gardaí to posting pair of runners to Castlerea Prison but said he didn't know drug was in the heels

John Kennedy arriving at Sligo Circuit Court
John Kennedy arriving at Sligo Circuit Court

Paul Deering

A 33-year old man has been found not guilty by direction of the trial Judge on a charge of posting drugs hidden in a pair of runners to Castlerea Prison.

The acquittal came last Thursday morning and followed a submission by the defence in the absence of the jury which related to the chain of evidence in the case relating to the transportation of DNA samples in the case to and from Dublin for analysis.

DNA evidence was central to the prosecution case against Kennedy during the three week trial at Sligo Circuit Court.

The prosecution was led by Ms Dara Foynes BL, instructed by Ms Elisa McHugh State Solicitor.

Kennedy had admitted to Gardaí during questioning to posting a pair of runners to a friend who was serving a sentence at Castlerea Prison but stated he didn’t know drugs had been placed in the heels.

The trial at Sligo Circuit Court heard a padded enveloped containing the LA Adidas runners along with a letter and a DVD box set of the television series Breaking Bad was posted by John Kennedy at Ballisodare Post Office on April 9th 2015 to Ryan Lait who was serving a sentence at Castlerea Prison at the time.

It was during his third interview at Sligo Garda Station that Kennedy admitted to posting the package but said he didn’t know that the drug, PVP or what was termed as the headshop equivalent of cocaine, had been placed in the heels of the runners.

His admission came after he was shown CCTV footage from the post office and informed that he was linked to the runners through his DNA.

Kennedy of Castleburn, Ballymote and also with addresses at Cairns Drive and Young’s Road, Ballisodare pleaded not guilty to conveying the drug, PVP (Pyrrolidinovalerophenone) into the prison, valued at around €300, between April 9th and 10th 2015 and to the possession of the drug at Ballisodare Post Office on April 9th.

A co-accused, Brian Duke (35) admitted unlawful possession of PVP at his home at 32 Cois Abhainn, Collooney between 1st February 2015 and March 31st 2015.

He has been remanded on bail for sentencing on June 5th next.

Kennedy’s case was heard before a jury of eight men and four women before Judge Francis Comerford.

Detective Sergeant Niall, in evidence stated that on Friday, April 10th 2015 he learned that a package which had been addressed to Ryan Lait at Castlerea Prison contained a pair of grey Adidas runners within which was a controlled drug and an investigation began.

Witness was tasked with trying to establish the origins of the package’s posting and did by ascertaining the serial number on the postage stamp which amounted to €8.25.

Witness discovered it was posted in Ballisodare Post Office at 4.41pm on April 9th. CCTV from the premises was garnered and he viewed same, recognising Kennedy on it.

Det Sgt Davey said he received the size seven runners from Sergeant Kieran O’Brien and on June 17th at 8.35am he arrested Kennedy whose DNA profile were on them at his home at Young’s Road, Ballisodare for conveying drugs into a prison.

Kennedy was taken to Sligo Garda Station where he was interviewed on three occasions in the presence of witness and Garda Kieran Staed, the first commencing at 11.01am. When shown the pair of runners, Kennedy told Gardaí that he never saw them before.

He said he was a size seven and that he had a similar pair himself before and that they were a popular style.

Kennedy said he had got rid of his pair, probably to a clothes bank or a charity shop. Asked if he would be surprised if his DNA was on them, he replied that yes he would be.  He was also shown the Breaking Bad box set and stated that it wasn’t his.

Kennedy also stated he didn’t recognise the padded white envelope which had been posted to Ryan Lait or the writing on it.

Kennedy told the Gardaí he had been in Ballisodare Post Office months ago and recalled taking up a similar type of padded envelope and thinking it was free and when he was asked what stopped him from taking it, he replied that he “just copped on” to himself.

Kennedy also stated he didn’t recognise the writing on a letter inside the package which was also addressed to Ryan Lait.

Kennedy said: “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

He knew Lait as a friend. He did not ask him to post the package for him.

A second interview began at 3.03pm. Kennedy denied writing the name and address on the padded envelope addressed to Lait.

Asked did he recall being in Ballisodare Post Office on April 9th, Kennedy said he “can’t recall yesterday.”

CCTV footage from the post office was shown to him while he was asked if would provide hand writing samples to which he agreed to provide.

Kennedy was asked if he had any idea how the drugs got into the runners and he replied, no.

During a third interview which began at 19.43pm, Kennedy admitted to posting the package saying he was just asked to do so.

There was nothing suspicious and the runners looked normal he said.

The runners were an old pair of his. “I didn’t realise there were drugs in it.

“I wouldn’t have done it if there were,” he said.

Kennedy said the runners had been brought up to the prison by someone but were returned to him. For his own safety he could not state who gave them back to him.

“I posted them. I put my hands up to that but I’m not taking the fall,” Kennedy told Gardai.

He added that he did not write the letter but he posted it along with the runners and the box set in the A3 size padded envelope.

In reply to Ms Carol Doherty BL (defending) Det Sgt Davey agreed that a second man, Brian Duke had been arrested during the investigation and he had subsequently pleaded guilty to a possession charge.

Forensic Scientist, Dr Brian Gibson, who is attached to the Forensic Science Laboratory in Dublin, told the court that an unidentified male DNA profile was obtained from the flap of the padded envelope he examined.

There was a mix of at least five people on the handwritten letter so it wasn’t suitable for further interpretation, he said.

DNA was obtained from the inner heel/sole area of the runners which indicated a mixture of more than one person present including Kennedy.

It was 600 million more times likely the DNA came from him than from two other unknown males in the community, said Dr Gibson.

Gary Delaney, also from the national Forensic Science Laboratory, stated that the powder he analysed on April 20th 2015 which he got from the holes in the runners weighed 5.603 grammes and was PVP, a synthetic stimulant.

Detective Sergeant Brian Roberts, who is a supervisor attached to the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, in evidence, said he was familiar with PVP for the past ten years . It was one of a number of new designer or psycho active drugs which came into being through the establishment of headshops around the country between 2005 and 2015.

Witness said loosely speaking PVP was designed to mimic the effects of cocaine. In its early days its slang term was snow or snow blow and also bath salts. At the time of seizure it was worth €50 a gramme, he said.

On Thursday morning last, Judge Comerford told the jury that his function was to ensure the case went to them in a condition where it was appropriate for them to make a decision of guilty or not guilty.

There had been legal argument in their absence which he gave a lot of consideration to and he had decided the prosecution could not proceed .

He instructed the forewoman to return a not guilty verdict on both counts and said while he regretted to taking the case away from them it was a decision he had to make.

The Judge exempted the jury from further service if they wished for a period of five years.

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