Son took over cannabis operation from father to pay mortgage, court told

Owen O’Rourke ‘one of the main suppliers of cannabis to the town of Killarney’, judge said

Owen O’Rourke’s growing operation was one of the main suppliers of cannabis to the town of Killarney, Judge Thomas E O’Donnell noted in the Circuit Court on Wednesday. File photograph

Owen O’Rourke’s growing operation was one of the main suppliers of cannabis to the town of Killarney, Judge Thomas E O’Donnell noted in the Circuit Court on Wednesday. File photograph

 

A son took over the cannabis operation set up by his late father to pay the mortgage, a court in Kerry heard on Wednesday.

The “highly sophisticated cannabis operation” at Rathmore on the Cork border, was one of the main suppliers of cannabis in Killarney, and was funding the family mortgage as well as debts from a failed business, the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee was told.

The operation in the home of Owen O’Rourke at Gortavehy West, Rathmore, Co Kerry had spilled over several rooms, according to gardaí who carried out a search of the house on April 18th, 2013.

The plants at various stages of cultivation had a potential street value of €160,000 and gardaí said the Rathmore home was “one of the main suppliers of cannabis to the town of Killarney”, Judge Thomas E O’Donnell noted at the sentencing hearing on Wednesday.

Owen O’Rourke of Gortavehy West, Rathmore, pleaded guilty to having cannabis with a street value of more than €13,000 and to cultivation. He took full responsibility for the operation, the court was told by prosecutor John O’Sullivan.

“It was a commercial operation,” the judge said.

“This is a bizarre case and might be described as the sins of the father.”

The entire operation had been set up by the accused’s father who had died in 2013, the judge said.

On his death the accused, then aged 19, came home from the UK to take over the operation.

“The income was being used to repay the family mortgage and other debts arising out of the failed plumbing business which had collapsed during the recession,” the judge said.

A previous court has been told his mother helped him with growing the plants.

In 2015 she was prosecuted and received a suspended sentence in Cork for the cultivation part of the operation.

But “despite the sins of the father”, the son had taken over the operation quite willingly and had a high level of culpability, the judge said.

In mitigation, the judge noted O’Rourke had co-operated fully and had a deep sense of misguided family loyalty. A father of one, he has no previous convictions.

Judge O’Donnell jailed O’Rourke for a total of four years — four years for the supply charge and three years for the cultivation, with the sentences to run concurrently. The prison term has been backdated to November 2018 when he went into custody.