Longford District Court
A married couple who were disturbed by gardaí in the course of a drugs search as they ate breakfast with their three small children have both been given fines by District Court Judge Seamus Hughes.
Martin and Tracey McDonagh, Derryharrow, Melview, Longford ran towards the rear of their home when drugs officers arrived at the scene on January 21 2017.
In a follow up search, gardaí managed to decipher an undisclosed quantity of cannabis which had been thrown into a stove in the midst of the furore.
Those events led Mr and Mrs McDonagh to be charged with the unlawful possession of cannabis under Sections 3 and 27 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977.
They were also charged with obstructing Garda Clement Cunniffe in the course of a drugs search under Sections 21 and 27 of the same act.
However, when the case came before last week’s District Court sitting Mr McDonagh submitted a plea of guilty to the drugs possession charge while his wife pleaded guilty to obstructing Garda Cunniffe as he attempted to undertake a search of the property.
They were admissions Supt Jim Delaney said were acceptable to the State with the remaining charges against the pair being struck out.
In his evidence to the court, Garda Cunniffe said after an initial commotion when gardaí arrived on the scene, certain admissions were made as to where the cannabis had been deposited.
“After things settled down Mr McDonagh admitted he had thrown cannabis into the stove and admitted it was his cannabis,” he said.
Garda Cunniffe said he was not in a position to speculate as to how much of the controlled drug had been partially charred but revealed follow up forensic analysis confirmed it was cannabis.
The Longford Garda also explained how gardaí resorted to using a shovel to extract the item from the stove when questioned by Judge Hughes.
“I’m curious that’s all. I just wanted to know its burning qualities against a Bord Na Mona briquette,” he said.
In defence, solicitor Trish Cronin said Mr McDonagh was holding his hands up as to the ownership of the cannabis, stating the family had been startled by the timing of the gardaí’s arrival on the scene.
“It was a Saturday morning and Mr McDonagh had been out the night before and purchased the item for €50. The three children who are aged 8, 6 and 2 were having breakfast at the time.
“It was ultimate panic.”
But it was when Ms Cronin revealed that both Mr and Mrs McDonagh were unemployed that Judge Hughes hit out.
“Isn’t it a great country,” he said, directing his ire towards Mr McDonagh.
“That you can go out at night, have a few jars and instead of buying the curry chips you buy cannabis.”
Mr McDonagh replied, stressing he was only an occasional frequenter of cannabis and only resorted to using the drug “once in a blue moon”.
Not for the first time, Judge Hughes countered with a caustic response.
“What amazes me about this is he was only an occasional user of cannabis and yet the guards had a warrant?”
Ms Cronin asked the court to consider both of her clients’ guilty pleas and the fact they were parents to three small children.
Judge Hughes subsequently fined Mr McDonagh €105 and Mrs McDonagh €250.