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Taxi driver in drugs sting turns life around

A TAXI driver who helped criminals distribute "vast amounts" of cocaine around the city had been ordered to carry out 240 hours of community service in lieu of six years in jail.

Darrell Clarke (31) was caught in a surveillance operation by gardai with cocaine and ecstasy at a combined value of nearly half a million euro, as well as drug paraphernalia and mixing agents.

Judge Katherine Delahunt said she was dealing with the case in a "highly unusual way" because of the "most dramatic turnaround" in Clarke's life since the offence three years ago.

She noted that he is now committed to helping people with drug problems in his local community and is due to start an addiction studies degree at university.

The judge said this was one of the "very very few" serious drugs cases where she encountered such a dramatic change in an accused person.

Clarke, of Whitestown Park, Blanchardstown, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to having possession of the drugs for sale or supply at various locations in the city on May 23, 2007.

Judge Delahunt said she considered it far more appropriate to let Clarke continue with his community work in lieu of jail time after hearing such "positive evidence" of his rehabilitation.

Defence counsel Conor Devally had submitted that there was a "seachange" in Clarke since his arrest and he wished to study social work in order to use his experience to benefit others in danger of falling into similar circumstances.