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Drug man regrets using councillor letter in court

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John Cunningham

John Cunningham

John Cunningham

A MAN who presented a character reference from a local councillor to a court where he was on a drugs charge, has admitted it was a stupid thing to do.

John Cunningham (30), from Dromheath Avenue, Blanchardstown, obtained the reference from Fianna Fail Dublin West councillor David McGuinness in his efforts to apply for a taxi licence.

But when he went to a garda station to make the application, he was arrested over a warrant out for him after he failed to appear in court on the charge at the previous sitting.

When he was brought before the court again, he handed the reference, and another from his local football club, to his defence team to be used in his favour.

Mr McGuinness has said he had no knowledge that Cunningham had 15 previous convictions and that if he had known the reference was going to be used for a court case, he would not have written it.

Soccer manager Cunningham was caught with a bag of synthetic cocaine at a Kings of Leon concert in Marlay Park, Rathfarnham, last July.

"I've been turning my life around and I do a lot of work in the community, and when I was brought to court I panicked," Cunningham told the Herald.

panicked

"I shouldn't have used the references in court, but I panicked and thought it might help me not get a conviction. I need to be conviction-free to get a taxi licence. I regret it now, and the last thing I would want is to get David into trouble."

Mr McGuinness told the Herald he wrote the reference knowing that Cunningham was from an underprivileged area but not knowing of his past.

"I know him from his dedication to the Corduff football club, and if a bit of positivity could come from it I thought I would help," he said.

"But I thought he was coming to me with a clean slate and I had no knowledge of his past or that the letter would be used in a court case. My motivation in this was only to support someone entering a career.

"I have been asked to support people before the courts and have refused."

In the letter, Mr McGuinness says he writes in support of Cunningham who is seeking employment in the taxi industry.

Cunningham admitted to simple possession of the synthetic drug PVP at Marlay Park last July 4.

undercover

Det Gda Gavin Cooke told Tallaght District Court he had been on undercover duty at the concert when he observed Cunningham dropping a bag of white powder on the ground.

He said he approached Cunningham who told him the powder was cocaine.

Det Gda Cooke said he later sent the powder for forensic analysis and it turned out to be PVP.

Det Gda Cooke outlined Cunningham's previous convictions.

At the District Court on June 29, 2007, he had a conviction for simple possession of drugs.

The detective said Cunningham also has previous convictions for larceny, a three-month sentence for possession of articles and two previous for simple possession of drugs.

Cunningham's defence lawyer said he was not working and is a team manager with Blanchardstown United FC.

She produced the letter from Mr McGuinness and pleaded for leniency. Cunningham "has turned his life around", she said, adding that he had been intoxicated on the night in question.

Judge Bridget Reilly said she noted the guilty plea and the penalties in the offence before the court. She also noted the letter on Cunningham's behalf from Mr McGuinness.

Cunningham was fined €350.

cfeehan@herald.ie

Herald