A 38 year-old-man described by gardaí as “a very significant drugs wholesaler” has had his 17 year jail term for drug offences reduced by four years after a successful appeal.
The Court of Appeal ruled that Garrett Hill of Gleann na Rí, Tower, Blarney, Co Cork was entitled to have his 17 year term cut to 13 years as the consecutive element of the earlier sentence had been disproportionately harsh.
Hill had been sentenced to seven years in jail by Judge Brian O'Callaghan at Cork Circuit Criminal Court after he pleaded guilty to possessing €104,799 worth of heroin for sale or supply at two locations in Cork on August 24th, 2016.
Hill had denied charges in May 2019 but on the second day of his trial had pleaded guilty, prompting Judge O’Callaghan to say the headline sentence was one of 10 years but he would give him a two year discount for the guilty plea.
However, Hill was out on bail on those charges when he was caught by members of the Cork City Divisional Drugs Squad with €12,958 worth of cannabis, heroin and cocaine at his house on January 12th, 2017.
Gardaí observed Hill, a native of Drogheda, Co Louth, preparing the drugs in his kitchen at a time when he was not only on bail but also under curfew and Judge O'Callaghan said his behaviour showed "disdain" for the gardaí.
He said he believed the appropriate headline sentence for the second set of offences, given that Hill was out on bail at the time and under curfew, was 15 years but said he would give him a four year discount for his guilty plea.
He made the second sentence consecutive to the first - 11 years consecutive to the first sentence of eight years but applying the totality principle, he cut the first sentence to seven and the second to 10 years.
Imposing the aggregate 17 year term sentence, Judge O’Callaghan said that Hill had shown total disregard for the consequences of his drug dealing, particularly when it came to heroin which was so damaging and destructive.
“This man is a cog in a particular wheel. It is a wheel of death, a wheel of destruction - it destroys lives, it destroys families and it destroys communities and Mr Hill is no fool, he knows very well the consequences of his actions.
“Heroin, the most serious drug in this country, is causing nothing but destruction wherever it goes. He got involved in this for nothing else but profit. This is purely a wholesaler of drugs for his own personal gain.”
On Thursday, Mr Justice John Edwards, together with Mr Justice George Bermingham and Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly, ruled that Judge O'Callaghan was correct when it came to assessing the penalty for Hill's first set of offences on August 2016.
Anthony Sammon SC argued that while the trial judge was entitled to set the headline sentence of 10 years for possessing €104,799 heroin for sale or supply he should have given more than a two year discount for his guilty plea.
However, the three judges of the Court of Appeal said Judge O’Callaghan was correct in the discount he applied but they found that he had set the headline sentence too high at 15 years for the second set of offences in January 2017.
Mr Justice Edwards said the headline sentence for the second set of offences committed while on bail should have been nine years rather than 15 years and he was entitled to a one third discount for his guilty plea.
They quashed the 10 year sentence imposed by Judge O’Callaghan and replaced it with a six year sentence which they made consecutive to the seven year term for the first group of offences, to leave Hill with 13 years to serve.
The Court of Appeal accepted Garda evidence from the sentencing hearing that Hill, who had a previous conviction for drug dealing in 2014, was not an addict and was a drugs wholesaler who was involved in the business for profit.