Solicitor caught with cocaine at Mountjoy to avoid conviction

Aonghus McCarthy (32) claimed someone else put the drugs in his wallet at a party

Solicitor Aonghus McCarthy arrives at  Dublin District Court where he pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of cocaine at Mountjoy Prison in February, 2017. Photograph: Collins Courts

Solicitor Aonghus McCarthy arrives at Dublin District Court where he pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of cocaine at Mountjoy Prison in February, 2017. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

A solicitor caught with cocaine in his wallet at Mountjoy Prison has been given a chance to avoid a criminal conviction after a judge accepted claims he did not know he was carrying the drug.

Aonghus McCarthy (32), who claimed someone else put the drugs in his wallet at a party, was told he would get a strike out if he donated €1,250 to a drug addiction treatment centre.

Judge Gerry Jones said Mr McCarthy, with an address at Wellington House, Clancy Quay, Dublin 8, was in a “noble profession” but was being treated the same as any other defendant.

He had been charged in November under Section 15c of the Misuse of Drugs Act for conveying a controlled drug into Mountjoy Prison or to a person in the prison, on February 8th, 2017, a charge he denied.

Cocaine worth €26 and weighing 0.33 grammes was found when his wallet was searched, Dublin District Court heard.

Last month an additional but less serious charge for unlawful possession of the drug was brought in the case.

On Tuesdday, when the case resumed, Judge Jones noted the State was not proceeding with the more serious allegation for conveying the drug into the prison which can carry a possible 12-month sentence.

A guilty plea was then entered to the less serious charge of possession.

Garda Sergeant Zita Woods told the court that at 6.30pm on February 8th, 2017, Mr McCarthy came to the prison for a professional visit.

He placed some items including his belt and wallet in a tray which was sent through an X-ray scanner machine as standard.

A prison officer became concerned when she saw a black patch in the wallet and the X-ray machine was stopped. A plastic packet which contained a white substance was recovered.

The solicitor was interviewed by Garda Finbarr Brennan and denied owning the cocaine. He made a voluntary statement without legal representation present and when asked about the substance said it was not his.

During the interview he said that, “I absolutely 100 per cent did not put it in my wallet” and claimed “someone else must have put it in there”.

He said it was possibly someone he had gone to a party with, the court was told. “I do not do drugs and I would not risk the entirety of my career. I don’t know who did do it and will ask around,” he said.

The judge said he would strike out the case and leave Mr McCarthy without a conviction if he donated €1,250 to the Merchant Quay drug project. “He will get one chance and one chance only,” the judge added.

The case was adjourned until March 6th.