Tuesday 24 April 2018

Father-of-two (39) jailed for seven years after admitting possession of over €4m worth of drugs

The case was brought before the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court
The case was brought before the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

Sonya McLean

A father of two who was part of “a large scale drug distribution hub” has been jailed for seven years after he admitted possession of over €4 million worth of cannabis and heroin.

Stephen Sarsfield (39) was spotted transferring boxes of cannabis from a large lorry into a garage in a Dublin housing estate before gardaí moved in.

Detective Garda Brian Foran told Ronan Kennedy BL, prosecuting, that officers “were practically tripping over stuff” when they discovered 188 Kgs of cannabis herb and 2.9 kgs of cocaine.

He described it as “a large scale drug distribution hub” telling Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that a money counting machine, two plastic bag sealers, three stun guns and a weighing scales were also found in the garage.

Sarsfield of New Street Gardens, Dublin 8, pleaded guilty to possession of the drugs for sale or supply, worth a total €4,170,932, at an address on Ballyfermot Drive, on July 17, 2017. He has four minor previous convictions.

Det Gda Foran said there were “drugs everywhere and an overpowering smell of cannabis herb”. He said the woman who owned the property next door didn't have access to the garage itself. It was being used as a business premises by another man.

He said gardaí set up a surveillance operation that morning, having received a tip off that a criminal gang was in possession of a large quantity of drugs. Officers noted that there was a large lorry parked outside a house opposite the garage and watched a number of men going into and out of the building over the course of the day.

At one point Sarsfield, got into the lorry and performed a u-turn before parking the vehicle directly outside the garage. The accused and another man were then seen moving flat pack boxes from the back of the truck into the garage.

Gardaí secured a warrant later that afternoon and searched the garage before Sarsfield and the other man were arrested.

Det Gda Foran told Mr Kennedy that Sarsfield had no connection to the garage and the owner of the home confirmed that she hadn't seen the lorry at the premises previously.

In a garda interview, Sarsfield said he was using cocaine about three or four times a week and he had a gambling debt. He didn't give gardaí any information about his role in the operation. He said he didn't know anything about the stun guns or the heroin.

Det Gda Foran agreed with Sean Guerin SC, defending that the lorry Sarsfield was driving “stuck out like a sore thumb” on the narrow residential street.

He accepted that Sarsfield was “a small but undoubtedly important cog in a bigger machine”.

Mr Guerin handed in a large number of testimonials which he said attested to his client's good standing and indicated that these actions were “out of character for him”.

He said he suffered from long term depression, which was never fully resolved and had been on disability benefit at the time of his arrest due to a previous work place injury.

Counsel said his client was “under pressure due to money owed” and submitted that his “vulnerabilities” were known to others who took advantage of him.

“He played a limited role and his easy identification speaks volumes as to his true position in the operation,” Mr Guerin submitted.

Judge Martin Nolan said that although Sarsfield gave gardaí no information as to his role in the operation “they had plenty of evidence against him”.

He said there was an impressive array of letters submitted on Sarsfield's behalf which indicated that he was a good family and community man.

“I must infer that he embroiled himself in this situation by reason of his debt, third parties found out about his debt and he became involved for some alleviation of this debt,” Judge Nolan said.

“It had to be apparent to everyone that there was a large amount of drugs involved,” the judge said before he added Sarsfield had “an important function” in the operation.

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