Monday 22 January 2018

Suspended sentence for wheelchair-bound man upheld at Court of Appeal

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

Daniel Hickey

A suspended five-year prison sentence for possession of cannabis with intent to supply imposed on a wheelchair-bound Dublin man has been upheld at the Court of Appeal today.

 The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had appealed against the sentence on the grounds of "undue leniency".

 Alan Wallace (47) of Kilcronin Close, Bawnogue, Clondalkin pleaded guilty in November, 2014, to the unlawful possession of cannabis for the purpose of supply at Ballyowen Road, Lucan on April 17th, 2014.

 In May, last year, at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, he was sentenced to five years in prison. The sentence was suspended in its entirety on the condition that Wallace enter into a bond of €100 and keep the peace and be of good behaviour for five years.

 Summarizing the facts of the case today at the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said that, on April 17th, 2014, a car being driven by Wallace was stopped and searched by gardai at Ballyowen Rd.

 The search revealed cannabis with a street value of €180,000, the court heard. 

 After his arrest, Wallace admitted that he was aware the cannabis was in his car and that he was to be paid €500 for transporting the drugs. The gardai accepted this was the height of his involvement in the operation, the court heard.

 Mr Justice Mahon said that the DPP argued the five-year suspended sentence imposed on Wallace was "too lenient".

 Reasons for the DPP's application were that Wallace was actively involved in transporting the drugs and that undue weight had been attached to the mitigating factors in the case, the court heard. 

 The court also heard that there is a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years for the offence but that, under certain circumstances, a judge can use discretion when sentencing. 

 Mitigating factors in Wallace's case were his plea of guilty and his co-operation with gardai, the court heard. 

 Mr Justice Mahon said that an "over-riding factor" in mitigation was that Wallace suffers from a very serious medical condition which requires the use of a wheelchair and that the sentencing judge "properly exercised his discretion in his decision to depart from the requirement to impose a sentence of at least ten years".

 He further stated, "It is undoubtedly the case that [Wallace's] medical condition, and in particular his dependence on the use of a wheelchair, would subject him to significant additional hardship and discomfort than would be the case for an able-bodied man."

 The issue in the case was whether or not the judge's decision to suspend the entire five year term was correct, the court heard. 

 Mr Justice Mahon said the fact that the sentence was suspended for five years was "not by any means an insignificant penalty".

 He said the Court was satisfied that the sentence in the case was "lenient but not unduly lenient".

 "In reaching this conclusion," Mr Justice Mahon said, "the Court wishes to emphasise the existence of wholly exceptional circumstances in this particular case."

 The judge also told the court it was "noteworthy that [Wallace's] medical condition has deteriorated since the date of the sentencing and that in the interim he has suffered the amputation of his lower left leg."

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