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Solicitor who brought small amount of cocaine into Mountjoy Prison given option to avoid conviction

Aonghus McCarthy said he did not know how the 0.33g of cocaine was in his wallet.

The entrance into Mountjoy Prison.
The entrance into Mountjoy Prison.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

A SOLICITOR CAUGHT with cocaine in his wallet during a professional visit to 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.

Dublin based lawyer, Aonghus McCarthy, 32, who maintained 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 McCarthy 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 8 February, 2017, a charge he denied.

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

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

Today, when it 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 for possession.

Garda Sergeant Zita Woods agreed with prosecution counsel Lorcan Staines that at 6.30pm on 8 February, 2017 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, “no, it was not his”.

He accepted it was found in his wallet but had no idea how it got there, Garda Sergeant Woods said. He also told the garda who interviewed him that he was “trying to retrace his steps over the last few days”.

Party

During the interview he said that, “I absolutely 100 per cent did not put it in my wallet”.

He also told the investigating Garda, “Someone else must have put it in there”.

He indicated that 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 told the Garda during the interview.

He also told the garda he had no history of drug use and his family could vouch for that and he also said he was into fitness and did not take drugs. He had one prior conviction in 2012 when he was fined by Middletown District Court for driving without insurance.

Defence solicitor Michael Hanahoe pointed out that his client had been on a professional visit to Mountjoy Prison and had been well aware he would be searched.

McCarthy’s practice is based at Conyngham Road, Dublin 8 and his firm had been assigned to represent his own clients on legal aid at the district court today.

The solicitor, from Co. Cork, but who has an address at Wellington House, Clancy Quay, Dublin 8 did not give evidence during the hearing.

Hanahoe pleaded with the court to note it was a very small amount of drugs and his client had suffered greatly. He had a good future in front of him and placed himself at the mercy of the court, Hanahoe said.

Judge Jones said he was glad the charge for conveying the cocaine into the prison had been withdrawn by the prosecution and that: “ I could not see it going too far”.

He said he was treating McCarthy the same as any other defendant and he always gave a defendant “a chance to conserve their good name and record”.

‘Noble profession’

He said the defendant was in “a very noble profession” and he accepted that he probably did not know the cocaine was in his wallet. Nevertheless, gardai and prison officers have a job to do, he said.

He said he would strike out the case and leave him 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.

Otherwise, a conviction would be recorded and he would be fined instead, he warned.

The case was adjourned until 6 March and the judge said that a receipt for the donation would be acceptable.

Comments are disabled as legal proceedings are ongoing.

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Tom Tuite

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