Teenager gets community service for €43k cocaine stash

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A Galway teenager  after being caught by with more than €43,000 worth of cocaine following a Garda surveillance operation.

The 17 year old, who cannot be named as he is a minor, received a 120 community service order after appearing at Galway Circuit Court.

Sgt Eoin Fox told the court that the arrest and seizure came after an intelligence and surveillance operation at Dunlo Harbour in September 2021.

Intelligence led Gardaí to a disused yard at the harbour, where a stash of drugs was uncovered.

On September 19, shortly after 5pm, Gardaí saw a football come over the wall of the yard. The defendant climbed the wall and checked the area, before putting on a pair of latex gloves and making his way to the undergrowth.

There he removed a white lunchbox from the undergrowth and opened it, at which point he was arrested by Gardaí.

Inside the lunchbox were six bags of white powder, two big and four smaller, all of which were suspected to be cocaine.

The drugs were sent for analysis, and came back as 620.7 grams of cocaine, with a street value of €43,449.

Cocaine in a lunchbox seized at Dunlo, Ballinasloe in September 2021

The offence of Section 15A of the Misuse of Drugs Act, possession of drugs for sale or supply where the value is €13,000 or greater, typically carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison, but this does not apply when the offender is minor.

The accused had no previous convictions, and entered a plea of guilty at the first date before the Circuit Court.

The teenager, who was 16 at the time of the offence, claimed that some of his friends accumulated a drug debt of a few hundred euro. He took responsibility for this, and ended up embroiled in cocaine dealing, he said.

Barrister for the defence Bernard Madden SC, said that he couldn’t imagine a more unlikely drug mule. “But that’s no indicator these days,” he added.

Mr Madden said the report from the probation services was positive, and that his client wants to turn his life around.

He was involved with a negative peer group at the time, which involved drinking and cannabis, but has since left that behind.

The young man is involved in both GAA and Soccer, and wants to become a teacher, Mr Madden said.

Judge Brian O’Callaghan said that this was a “most serious” offence, and that with the drugs trade come “money and violence, including assaults and murder”.

In most cases, the judge said, an offence like this would result in someone going to prison.

He said that it was hard to understand how someone so young had found himself involved with such a huge quantity of drugs.

The early plea, his young age at the time, work ethic, and engagement with Youthreach were mitigating factors the judge said, as was the fact that he has clearly learned his lesson.

Aggravating the seriousness of the offence was the value and nature of the drugs involved, as well as participation in the drug trade.

Judge O’Callaghan imposed a Community Sanction Order, and ordered the teenager to perform 120 hours of community service.