No jail for drug dealer at centre of TD letter row

Hugo Porter.

By Kathryn Hayes

a DRUG dealer who was the subject of representation by a senior politician has avoided a prison sentence.

Hugo Porter (40) was caught with almost €18,000 worth of cannabis in a field near Castleconnell, Co Limerick, in June 2011, following a garda surveillance operation.

Sentencing the dad-of-four at Limerick Circuit Court yesterday, Judge Carroll Moran insisted a letter written by Fianna Fail's Justice spokesman urging for leniency had no influence on his decision to impose a suspended jail sentence.

The case came to public attention after it emerged that Fianna Fail deputy Niall Collins wrote the letter on behalf of the widower, who is the sole carer of his four children following the suicide of his wife.

Collins was widely criticised for writing the letter which was seen as interfering with a judicial matter. The letter was handwritten on official-headed note paper and included Deputy Collins' photograph. It was not read out in court but was submitted as part of mitigation.

Mr Collins later expressed regret and admitted writing the letter had been a mistake after he was accused of trying to interfere with judicial independence. Deputy Collins yesterday said he had no comment to make.

At Limerick Circuit Court, Judge Moran said he was suspending the three-year prison sentence because of the "exceptional circumstances" in the case, and the instability a custodial sentence would have on Mr Porter's four chidren who are aged between five and 11.

Referring to the letter, Judge Moran insisted it had no influence. He accepted the letter was written with the best intentions and motive and said Mr Collins didn't believe he was doing anything "untoward".

Judge Moran said his decision to suspend the prison term was made based on all the factors in the case, particularly the tragic death of Mr Porter's wife.


Judge Moran also took into account the positive report submitted by the Child and Family Agency, which expressed no concerns about Mr Porter's child-rearing ability.

Porter who has a number of previous convictions, mostly for road traffic matters, was given a two-year suspended sentence in 2009 after he pleaded guilty to a 'glassing' offence in Co Clare.

Porter, with an address at St Patrick Villa's, Castleconnell, pleaded guilty to two charges of possession of cannabis worth almost €18,000 for sale or supply.

He was seen emerging from a field with a quantity of drugs which were "packaged for sale". His co-accused was found in a waiting vehicle with a checklist that referred to large sums of money.

The men were said to "equally culpable" in their drug dealing operation.