A NEW REPORT published by the courts service has revealed that cocaine and heroin are involved in seven out of 10 serious drugs cases heard.
The research by the Irish Sentencing Information System (ISIS) showed that cocaine was involved in 45 per cent of cases, while heroin accounted for 25 per cent of incidences.
In serious cases of possession, sale or importation of drugs, just less than a quarter of offenders get the ‘presumed minimum’ of 10 years or more. Almost half get between five and 10 years, while 18 per cent receive between two- and five-year terms.
Three per cent were handed down sentences of less than two years.
Possession of larger amounts and “harder types” of drugs meant longer and harsher sentences. Three cases, connected to the largest cocaine haul in the history of the State, attracted between 27 and 30 years imprisonment.
On 2 July 2007, a smuggling operation saw €440 million worth or 1.5 tonnes of cocaine intercepted by authorities. Three individuals were each sentenced to 30 years, 30 years and 25 years for their roles.
The ISIS analysis looked at 81 separate cases which saw a total of almost 70 per cent of offenders receive sentences of over five years.
Of those offenders, the overwhelming majority (93 per cent) were male.
Cannabis accounted for 21 per cent of cases, while ecstasy or other amphetamines were involved in 6 per cent. MDMA and LSD were the centre of 2 per cent and 1 per cent of cases respectively.
The ISIS report states that the value of haul is determined as one of the most important factors in sentencing by the Court of Criminal Appeal.
In less serious charges – where the value of the drugs is below €13,000 – three quarters of offenders received between two and five years, 5 per cent got over five years, while another five per cent got suspended sentences.
However, value and quantity is not the sole determining factor. The type of drug, the role of the offender and the offender’s condition are also seen an being particularly influential mitigating factors.
The report identifies many mitigating and aggravating factors that apply in sentencing for drug supply offences.
“Exceptional and specific circumstances” are a subset of mitigating factors but set a higher threshold than mitigating factors generally in sentencing law because all “exceptional and specific circumstances” are mitigating factors, but not all mitigating factors constitute “exceptional and specific circumstances”.
The analysis in the report identifies the following “exceptional and specific circumstances” from cases before the Court of Criminal Appeal:
- the absence of previous convictions;
- unlikelihood of reoffending;
- demonstration of remorse;
- foreign nationality (coming from and family living abroad);
- role of the offender;
- health problems;
- intention to reform;
- age of the offender, vulnerability of that offender;
- and prospect of rehabilitation.
A further analysis of sentences in almost 100 drugs cases in the Circuit Court will be published in the coming weeks.