Truck driver caught with €2.2m cannabis jailed for eight years

A father-of-two who imported over €2.2 million of cannabis into the country has been jailed for eight-and-a-half years.

erard Donnelly (45) worked as a truck driver and a trailer he had transported from the UK was found to contain boxes filled with herbal cannabis and cannabis resin.

Donnelly of Beltany Grove, Omagh, Co Tyrone, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the importation of cannabis at Dublin Port on September 27, 2017. The court heard that he had no relevent previous convictions.

Detective Garda Mark Berrigan told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that on the date in question, a truck being driven by the accused man was directed over to customs officials at Dublin Port and a drug detection dog took an interest in the trailer.

Det Gda Berrigan said Donnelly told officials that the trailer was filled with empty crates he had picked up in the UK the day before. An -ray scanner determined that not all the crates were empty.

Boxes containing 342kg of herbal cannabis and 8kg of cannabis resin were discovered in pallets at the very rear of the trailer. The total value of all the drugs was €2,216,800.

In interview with gardaí, Donnelly said he had travelled to the UK to drop something off on behalf of a customer of his employer. He said he then got a phone call from someone he did not know asking him to pick something up and bring it to Northern Ireland.

Donnelly told gardaí he went to the address he was given and met with a man he assumed was working on behalf of the same customer for whom he had just transported a load.

He said he helped load pallets onto the trailer and claimed he did not notice that two of them were “substantially” heavier than the others.

Det Gda Berrigan agreed with Kerida Naidoo SC, defending, that his client’s involvement was limited to being a courier. He agreed there was no suggestion that Donnelly’s lifestyle was “inconsistent” with being a lorry driver and no wealth was found.

The detective agreed with counsel that his client had been on bail and went into custody voluntarily after pleading guilty.

Mr Naidoo said his client expresses “genuine and deep shame” for becoming involved and apologises to the court. He said his client made “a very bad decision on this one occasion”.

Counsel said the evidence does not establish that his client knew the actual quantity of drugs he was transporting. He submitted that the court is entitled to treat his client as a man who has largely led a normal life.

He said his client has worked as a truck driver since 2000. He said his client is married and has two children.

Judge Martin Nolan said he inferred that Donnelly was going to receive “some kind of reward” for transporting the drugs. He said he accepted the accused was a courier.

Judge Nolan said that the accused did not own the drugs, “but he was essential to this drug dealing enterprise”. He said it is unlikely he will come back before the court for anything nearly as serious.

He sentenced Donnelly to eight-and-a-half years imprisonment and backdated the sentence to when he first went into custody on March 1, last.