AN out-of-work butcher caught with more than €137,000 of heroin in his van has been spared jail after a judge accepted he was acting under duress.
Anthony Naughton (28), initially told gardai who stopped him that he was collecting bread to feed his horses.
But Naughton, of Muskerry Road, Ballyfermot, later pleaded guilty to possessing drugs for sale or supply at Steeples Apartment complex in Chapelizod in February 2012.
At Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Mary Ellen Ring said she accepted that he was acting under huge pressure from dangerous people.
She added the pressure was so intense, she felt she could take the unusual step of giving him a suspended six-year sentence with strict conditions.
Garda Adrian Eustace had told Cormac Quinn BL, prosecuting, that Naughton had pulled into a lane beside the Village Inn on Tyrconnell Road, after which a man came out and put a package in his van.
Gardai followed and stopped the car, but it took the defendant a while to come out. When he did, he was shaking and avoided answering questions.
He told officers there was noting inside the van. When they found the package, he said he had no idea what it was or how it had gotten there.
But after he was arrested, he said he had been "dabbling in coke" and had run up a bill.
He also claimed that he had been intimidated into holding the heroin, with gangsters breaking his jaw, vandalising his van and even threatening his parents.
Caroline Biggs SC, defending, said that there was "real evidence" of duress in the case and that her client had been desperately frightened.
"He was involved, but not willingly," she said, adding that he was now ashamed and remorseful of his role.
The court heard that he suffered "significant assaults" following the incident, and that one attack had left a scar over his eyebrow.
Naughton has 21 previous convictions for road traffic offences, the court heard. His family has no history of criminality, his lawyer added.
The defendant worked with a meat company for 10 years before setting up his own business, but he his now out of work.
He told gardai that he was now lucky to make €100 a week doing deliveries.
A psychiatric report showed that Naughton suffers from dyslexia and ADHD, but is willing and able to work.