A 38 year old man, who claimed to be scouting out a field to go lamping or dazzling rabbits when he was caught with €58,000 worth of drugs, has been jailed for eight years by a judge who described his explanation as “completely unbelievable”.
Karl Humphries from Curraheen Drive in Bishopstown, Cork had denied a charge of possessing cannabis resin for sale or supply at Ardnageehy East, Watergrasshill, Co Cork on July 29th, 2012 but a jury found him guilty of the offence following a trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court last July.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said that Humphries had come to Watergrasshill on the night in question with another man to collect the drugs and he was clearly was not just a courier but an important part of the criminal group involved in the sale and supply of the drugs.
Det Sgt Michael O’Halloran had told Humphries’s trial that when he went on duty that day, he got into a concealed position to observe the area of a ditch on a quiet lane at Ardnageehy East in Watergrasshill where drugs squad officers had previously located €58,000 worth of cannabis.
They returned the black bag of drugs to the concealed position under an old tyre and kept it under surveillance as a green Renault Clio arrived on the scene and Humphries got out of the passenger seat and proceeded to search the area where the drugs were hidden, he said.
“He started what appeared to be a search of this area. He got over the gate. He searched these tyres. I grabbed him. I had him by the arm. He had a black bag in his possession. He dropped it at his feet. I called for assistance on the radio. He froze. He was in shock, shaking,” said Det Sgt O’Halloran.
Humphries made no admissions during interview following his arrest and told gardaí he had gone to the area to scout it out to see if it was a suitable location to go lamping rabbits. He was not involved in the drugs trade and it was a coincidence there was a bag with cannabis in the ditch there, he said.
Humphries repeated his claim that he was scouting out the field for lamping or dazzling rabbits during the trial. “My business there was picking out the fields for hunting,” he told the jury, adding that he had never been in the field before but he “would like to go back again for a bit of hunting.”
Det Sgt O’Halloran said when he was holding on to the defendant’s arm when he nabbed him: “He got such a fright I could feel his heart beat through his arm,” said Det Sgt O’Halloran but Humphries claimed that he saw undercover detective lying in the ditch before the officer ever approached him.
“I said, ‘Hello, hello, are you OK?’ There was no response,.I didn’t know what was going on. I started walking towards that person. He just jumped up off the ground and grabbed me. I said, ‘I am checking the fields,’ and he said, ‘You are, yeah.’ He was agitated. I was kind of laughing.”
Judge Ó Donnabháin quizzed Humphries about his modus operandi when it came to lamping or dazzling rabbits, asking him where was Fido (the dog) that he was using which led to Humphries replying that “I was scouting. I was not going lamping. I was scouting to go lamping.”
However, the jury rejected Humphries’s defence and found him guilty by a majority of 10-2 of possessing the drugs for sale or supply contrary to Section 15A of the Misuse of Drugs Act which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years save in exceptional circumstances.
Judge Ó Donnabháin told defence barrister Donal O’Sullivan BL: “Your fellow is facing 10 years. You can be blinding the jury with Fido but I don’t know where the defendant was going… It is really throwing pepper in my eyes - someone would want to pull themselves together.”
On Tuesday, Judge Ó Donnabháin said he found it difficult to find any reason to depart from the mandatory minimum ten year term as Humphries had not assisted gardai in any way and he noted Humphries had fled to Australia when it was clear he was going to be facing charges in the case.
He said that Humphries’s explanation for being in the field was “completely unbelievable” as he recalled that Humphries had no dog with him but instead was claiming that he was just on a scouting mission and was going to go back to Bishopstown to collect the dog to return to the field.
He sentenced Humphries to 10 years in prison backdated to July when he went into custody following his conviction but he suspended the final two years on condition that Humphries keep the peace and be of good behaviour for a period of two years upon his release from the eight year term.