Wednesday 18 September 2019

Heroin dealer 'a cog in wheel of death'

'Remorseless' man on bail after being found with €104,000 of heroin, caught again weighing out deals from another €9,500 of heroin at his home in Blarney

A 38 year old Mid-Cork man described by gardai as "a very significant drugs wholesaler" has been jailed for a total of 17 years after he pleaded guilty to a series of offences, including possessing heroin, cocaine and cannabis for sale or supply.

Garrett Hill of Gleann na Ri, Tower, Blarney had pleaded guilty to a total of ten separate charges on two separate dates and at three separate locations when he appeared at Cork Circuit Criminal Court last Thursday for sentence.

Judge Brian O'Callaghan said Hill had shown no remorse and he imposed an initial sentence of seven years for offences committed in 2016 followed by a consecutive 10 year term for offences committed in 2017 while on bail for the first offences.

Det Garda Ian Cahalane said the Cork City Divisional Drugs Squad had received confidential information that Hill was to receive a consignment of drugs on August 24, 2016 and they mounted a surveillance operation on an apartment at the Blarney Shopping Centre.

They saw Hill emerge with a suitcase and another man emerge with a rucksack, and they followed them as they drove to Cork Builders Providers in Togher where they watched Hill take a package and get into a van driven by a third man.

Gardai moved to intercept them and they found the package contained heroin with a street value of €7.713 before carrying out a follow-up search of the apartment in Blarney where they found a further stash of heroin with a street value of €96,586, to give a total value of €104,299.

Det Garda Cahalane said the case against Hill would have been circumstantial but the heroin seized in Togher was in a plastic bag which was ripped from the same roll of plastic bags containing the heroin in Blarney, where they also found Hill's DNA on the plastic wrapping around the drugs.

Gardai also examined mobile phone records for Hill, O'Rourke and Crowley and established that Hill had been in contact with Crowley, unlike O'Rourke who did not contact him, leading them to believe that Hill was the ringleader who had organized the supplying of the drugs to Crowley.

He said that Hill was out on bail when gardai mounted another operation against him on January 12, 2017 and two undercover officers hiding in his back garden observed him weighing out deals of cannabis in his illuminated kitchen at his house at Gleann na Ri in Tower.

They observed him remove rubber gloves he was wearing when he went to answer the door to what he expected were gardai calling to check on his curfew, which was part of his bail terms, only to discover that it was gardai with a search warrant for the premises.

Det Garda Cahalane said that gardai then searched the premises and found €9,538 worth of cannabis, €2,537 worth of heroin and €833 worth of cocaine in the house where Hill lived with his wife and children, who were upstairs asleep at the time.

Questioned by Judge O'Callaghan, Det Garda Cahalane said that Hill was "a very significant drugs wholesaler" and he did not suffer from any drugs addiction nor he was under any pressure to pay off drug debts but was solely involved in drug dealing for the profits he could make.

He said that Hill, a native of Drogheda in Co Louth, had a previous conviction for drug dealing, which had been dealt with at district court level, as well as three convictions for simple possession as well convictions for assault and possession of stolen property.

He had not co-operated with gardai, responding 'no comment' during his various interviews following his arrests in both 2016 and 2017, said Det Garda Cahalane, adding gardai also seized €4,735 in cash during the raid on his home which they believe were the proceeds of drug dealing.

Pleading for leniency, defence counsel Anthony Sammon SC said that his client had been on remand in prison since January 2017 and in that time he had been a model prisoner and undertaken several educational courses in a bid to turn his life around and turn away from crime.

"He is a person who wishes to engage in prison in the most positive way possible and attain education to seek out a law-abiding lifestyle. He wants desperately to put that [criminal behaviour] behind him."

Judge O'Callaghan acknowleged Hill was making an effort while in prison and there was some evidence he has been engaging in self-improvement. He also noted that Hill did not suffer from any addiction nor was he under any pressure at the time of the offences while he also remarked upon his lack of remorse or regret, his failure to apologise for his criminality and his refusal to co-operate with gardai in any way.

"We must always remember the victims of drug-fuelled crimes. I can find not a scintilla of evidence of remorse or regret, not to mind turning his back on crime," said the judge.

He said while the value of the drugs in the 2016 seizure was greater, the 2017 offences were more grave as they happened not only while on bail but also while under curfew and to prepare drugs when he knew gardai would call to check on him displayed "a mind-boggling disdain".

He noted Hill's wife had written about the hardship a prison sentence would cause his family but he noted Hill had shown little regard for his children asleep upstairs as he engaged in his criminality. "This man is a cog in a particular wheel. It is a wheel of death, a wheel of destruction - it destroys lives, it destroys families and it destroys communities and Mr Hill is no fool, he knows very well the consequences of his actions. He showed total disregard for these consequences," he said.

"Heroin, the most serious drug in this country, is causing nothing but destruction wherever it goes. He got involved in this for nothing else but profit. This is purely a wholesaler of drugs for his own personal gain. The offence could not be more grave," he said.

Regarding sentencing, Judge O'Callaghan said that he was bound by the legislation to impose consecutive sentences given the second offence happened while on bail for the first offences, and he noted the garda evidence that Hill was "a very significant drugs wholesaler".

Hill was the ringleader of the gang, the other two having already been dealt with by the courts. Judge O'Callaghan imposed sentences totaling 17 years, backdated to January 2017 when Hill first went into custody.