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Gardai must return €1,000 in jail probe

THE State has been ordered to return cash seized from a man who was convicted of conspiring to smuggle drugs and a phone into Mountjoy Jail.

Gardai were told to hand back just under €1,000 that was taken from the home of Sean Hinchon seven years ago as part of a prison contraband smuggling investigation.

Detectives had believed the cash was related to the smuggling operation.

However, Mr Hinchon, who was unemployed, insisted at Dublin District Court that the money was his savings, kept in a safe under his bed.

He said this was to keep it out of the reach of the nine children living in the house.

Judge Cormac Dunne ordered the return of the cash, but said he was doing so with a "healthy degree of scepticism".

Gardai had brought an application under the Police Property Act for the forfeiture of the money to the State.

Mr Hinchon (36), of St Ronan's Close, Clondalkin, resisted the application.

Det Gda David Carolan said an investigation into the trafficking of contraband into prisons was established in 2007.

EXPLANATION

On April 17 that year, Mr Hinchon's home was searched. A safe containing €885 in cash was found in his bedroom and €80 was in a pair of jeans. Both amounts were seized.

Mr Hinchon was arrested and taken to Whitehall garda station. A number of exhibits not including the money were shown to him during his detention. He did not volunteer any explanation for the cash.

He was released, later charged and convicted at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of conveying a mobile phone and conspiracy to supply drugs into Mountjoy Prison.

Det Gda Carolan said: "It is my belief that this money was used to pay people to bring phones and drugs into prison."

He conceded, however, that the admissions were not about the money seized.

Cross-examined by solicitor Tony Collier, for Mr Hinchon, Det Gda Carolan said there were no competing claims for the money.

Mr Hinchon said he had been on welfare and had saved the money "over a period of time".

He kept it in a "safe deposit box" under his bed along with his passport and "receipts for expensive things".

"There were nine children in the house, so you couldn't leave it lying around," he said.

APHELAN@ERALD.IE


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