A dad-of-seven caught with 43,000 sedative tablets hidden in M&M sweet wrappers at Dublin Airport has been ordered to carry out community service work to avoid six months in jail.
Joseph Anthony Roche (41), of Drumcairn Parade, Fettercairn, Tallaght, was prosecuted by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), the agency that regulates medicines in Ireland.
He appeared again at Dublin District Court yesterday to face two charges under the Irish Medicines Board Act: that on October 28, 2016, at Dublin Airport he kept for supply white oval tablets containing or comprising the medicinal product zopiclone, without authorisation of the HPRA, and that he unlawfully placed them on the market.
The case began before new regulations brought in last year stating that zopiclone would be subject to control under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
The prosecution had been ordered to provide disclosure of evidence, and Roche had pleaded guilty to the charges in March. The court had then agreed to an adjournment for a probation report to be prepared.
Evidence was given by HPRA inspector Alan Smullen.
He agreed with prosecution solicitor Ronan O'Neill that Roche had been stopped by customs officers at Dublin Airport.
He had arrived back from Spain where the sleeping tablets had been bought.
During a search, 43,000 zopiclone tablets with a street value of €86,000 were seized. They were found in M&M packets.
Judge John Brennan heard Roche had seven children and three of them were dependants.
He claimed he had not realised the quantity of tablets and the court heard he suffered from health problems.
Roche, who is on disability allowance, had no previous criminal convictions, Judge Brennan noted. He was furnished with a probation report that found Roche was suitable for community service.
Pleading for leniency, defence counsel Rory O'Connor said the report was positive.
He asked the judge to affirm the order he had indicated at an earlier stage, 200 hours of community service.
Judge Brennan agreed the report was positive. He noted Roche had no convictions and the defence pleas for leniency.
The judge ordered him to carry out 200 hours of community service instead of serving six months in prison.
He warned Roche that he would impose the sentence if he did not comply with the Probation Service in carrying out his community service.