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Festival drug cases will boost charities' coffers

ON-the-spot drug testing at Oxegen this year will be fast-tracked through the court system, with offenders likely to be told to pay €1,000 into the poor box.

The system, piloted at last year's concert, was so successful it has been decided to use it again for detecting small amounts of drugs.

Known as "presumptive" drug testing, the system is used to convict for possessing small amounts of cannabis resin, ecstasy, cannabis herb, cocaine, amphetamines and BZP.

It is flexible and does not require a report on the substance from the State's Forensic Science Laboratory, cutting down on paperwork and certification.

About 170 people from all over Ireland, but mainly Dublin, who were found with drugs at the last concert were called before Naas District Court last week.

The vast majority of the cases which came before Judge Desmond Zaidan were told to put €1,000 in the court box, which dispenses the money to different charities and voluntary groups.

About €110,000 was pledged and €30,000 of this was handed in and receipted by the court office on the day of the hearings.

The option of a voluntary contribution to charity was given to those without previous drug offence convictions, while larger amounts were paid by those with bigger quantities of drugs.

Those caught at the concert tended to be men in their mid-20s. Some had as little as €2 worth of cannabis or a single 'joint', while others were found with up to €80 worth of cocaine.

Garda Inspector Patsy Glennon explained that the system can be used on-site at concerts and "cuts down on the amount of painstaking examination and certification normally required and so saves time, money and effort".