Two men have been jailed for 10 and eight years respectively in relation to the seizure of cannabis valued at more than €70,000 in Cork city last year.
Ronald McKenzie (57) and William Power (31) pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to possessing cannabis for sale or supply at Cogan’s Cottages on the Ballinlough Road on the city’s southside on January 31st, 2017 contrary to Section 15A of the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Det Garda Eoin O’Toole of the Cork City Divisional Drugs Squad told the court a surveillance operation was mounted on the house where McKenzie was residing as they suspected it was being used to store and distribute cannabis.
He said gardaí were in place at around 2.40pm on January 31st, 2017 when they observed Power parking 100m from the house. They watched him enter the house and then re-emerge 25 minutes later with a shopping bag in his hand.
Gardaí emerged and searched Power and found he had €9,000 worth of cannabis herb and €1,245 in cash on his person. They then entered the house and met McKenzie before a search yielded two hold-all bags containing cannabis. They also found smaller quantities of the drug in the kitchen as well as cling-film, latex gloves and electronic weighing scales.
The cannabis seized in the property had a street value in excess of €71,000, the court heard.
McKenzie took responsibility for the drugs found in the house and gardaí accepted his explanation that he was being paid €100 a week and being given cannabis for his own use for storing the drug.
Det Garda O’Toole said Power, with an address at Hazelwood Grove, Kinsale Road, Cork, had one previous conviction for having cocaine for his own use in 2005 while McKenzie had served a three-year jail term in 2008 for possessing €200,000 worth of drugs for sale or supply.
He accepted that McKenzie was a pawn in the enterprise, acting as a storeman, and said gardaí believed Power was at a higher level in the operation, being involved in the organisation and distribution of the drugs.
Tom Creed SC, for McKenzie, said his client became addicted to cannabis after he started using it to ease the pain in his knees from rheumatoid arthritis.
He said he accepted that Judge Seán Ó Donnabhain had no discretion when it came to imposing a mandatory 10 years jail time on his client for the Section 15A offence given he had a previous similar conviction but the law allowed him to put in a review date if he had a proven addiction.
Elizabeth O’Connell SC, for Power, said her client went into drug detox for more than a year and has been clean of drugs except for one occasion since. She pointed out that a report found that he was committed and genuine in his efforts to rehabilitate himself.
The judge said he was conscious of the differing roles played by the two men. He said Power was “a cynical organiser” who ensured he lived away from where the drugs were being stored while McKenzie was charged with “minding the stuff”.
While he had no discretion when it came to imposing a 10 year sentence on McKenzie, he ordered a review after five years because of his addiction. He sentenced Power to 10 years in jail but suspended the final two years to incentivise his rehabilitation while in jail.
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