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Gardaí Don't Accept Laois Man Was Transporting Drugs Under Duress

He told gardaí he had been threatened and was paying off a drug debt.

Gardaí do not accept that a Laois man caught transporting over half a million euro of cocaine was acting under duress, a court has heard.

Eoin Connolly (34), who was yesterday jailed for to six and a half years, told gardaí he had been threatened and was paying off a drug debt.

Detective Garda Brian Foran, of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, told Judge Martin Nolan that Connolly's account of acting under duress was not accepted by gardaí.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Connolly's father gave his son up to €20,000 to pay drug debts.

Connolly of Oak Lawn, Portlaoise, pleaded guilty to possession of drugs for sale or supply at Outer Ring Road, Clondalkin on March 16, 2019. He has 27 previous convictions.

Judge  Nolan said he placed Connolly in the “middle to lower” range in terms of his role in this operation. He said there was no great evidence of wealth and Connolly was unlikely to be the owner or main beneficiary of the drugs but was “transporting for reward for his own reasons.”

He noted Connolly had pleaded guilty and co-operated in relation to the investigation.

Judge Nolan imposed a six and a half year sentence from today's date.

Det Gda Foran told Diarmuid Collins BL, prosecuting, that gardaí acting on confidential information stopped and searched a vehicle driven by Connolly. He directed them to the boot where they found boxes and a bag containing 8.1 kilograms of cocaine.

A further small amount was found the next day in follow up search of a premises in Tullamore.

The total value of the drugs recovered was €580, 210.

Connolly told gardaí he was acting under duress due to drug debt and had to move the items.

Det Gda Foran said this account was not accepted by gardaí. He told Judge Nolan: “He comes from a very decent family and has received more opportunities than most in my experience.”

Michael Bowman SC, defending, outlined that Connolly told gardaí he was in fear of the owners of the drugs and had been threatened. He said he had already borrowed money and couldn't get any more to repay the final €4,000 he owed.

Connolly's father told Mr Bowman that his son left school early and fell in with a crowd who introduced him to drug use. He began offending and was imprisoned in St Patrick's Institution.

He said living with his son was like “Jekyll and Hyde” and Connolly was a “lovely lad” when not using drugs.

He outlined that he had given his son up to €20,000 from his pension to pay drug debts. He agreed that he had “turned off the tap” two and a half years ago because he just couldn't keep doing it.

He told Mr Bowman: “I am appalled at what has happened.”

He agreed his son has expressed that this is an opportunity for him to “put it behind him” and get an education.

Mr Bowman said his client was taking medication in an attempt to address his drug difficulties.

He asked the court to take into account his father's evidence that he had given money to his son but stopped two and a half years ago. He said not all the debt had been expended at that point.

Counsel submitted it was not being suggested Connolly was living a lavish lifestyle and said he was dependent on his father for support. Mr Bowman said Connolly had taken full responsibility and pleaded guilty.

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