Men lose appeal against 10-year sentences for €1.2m drugs charge

Gardaí arrested Jason Keogh and Niall O’Leary after surveillance operation in Swords

Two men who were given 10 year jail terms for possession of €1.2 million worth of cannabis have lost their appeals against sentence.

Jason Keogh (50), with an address in Laytown, Co Meath, and Niall O'Leary (42), with an address at Castledermot, Co Kildare, each pleaded guilty to possession of drugs for sale or supply at Bettystown Co Meath, on July 20th, 2011.

They were each sentenced to 13 years imprisonment with the final three suspended by Judge Michael O’Shea at Trim Circuit Criminal Court in 2012.

Both men have lost their appeal against sentence in the Court of Appeal.

Giving background to the case, Mr Justice George Birmingham said the Garda National Drugs Unit were mounting a surveillance operation in Swords, Co Dublin, on July 20th, 2011, when Keogh was seen to collect seven blue barrels from an industrial estate premises and place them in a vehicle he was driving.

Together with O’Leary, Keogh drove to a B&Q outlet to buy an electric saw and then went to a house he was renting in Bettystown, the judge said.

Shortly after they arrived, the sound of an electric saw was audible and the gardaí­ obtained a search warrant to enter the house.

Gardaí­ found approximately 100kg of vacuum packed cannabis worth an estimated street value of €1.2 million.

Both men were arrested at the scene.

The court heard that Keogh was being paid €5,000 and O’Leary was being paid €2,500 for their roles in the offence.

Both men had much in common, Mr Justice Birmingham said. They both entered early pleas, Keogh a little earlier than O’Leary; both had domestic debts; both were family men; and neither had previous convictions.

Mr Justice Birmingham said there were powerful references and testimonials in Keogh’s favour presented to the sentencing judge, including a reference to his involvement with the Society of St Vincent de Paul.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the sentencing judge had come to the conclusion that 10 years was not unjust.

A sentence in excess of 10 years was not only just, but actually required, he said, in reference to the presumptive mandatory minimum sentence that is imposed on offenders for possession of drugs worth €13,000 or more.

The Court of Appeal took the view that Judge Michael O’Shea was entitled to come to the conclusion that he did, to sentence both men to 13 years imprisonment with the final three suspended.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the court could find no error in principle and dismissed the men’s appeal.

Both men embraced family members and supporters in court before being lead away to complete the custodial portions of their sentences.