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'It was a once off': Nine-year suspended sentence for woman whose flat was used to store drugs worth €1.3m

The court heard that the incident was ‘totally out of character’ for the woman.

A WOMAN WHO allowed over €1.3 million worth of cannabis and cocaine to be stored in her flat has received a suspended prison term of nine years.

Susan McNeill (33), formerly of Bow Lane West, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possessing drugs for sale or supply on 16 March last year at the flat complex she lived in at the time.

Detective Garda Susan Plunkett told Pieter Le Vert BL, prosecuting, that the drugs had an estimated market value of approximately €1,352,798.

Judge Pauline Codd said that as a result of ongoing physical and emotional violence in a previous relationship, the accused was vulnerable and easily led. She also noted that O’Neill was the sole carer for a son with vulnerabilities.

She suspended a nine-year sentence, on condition that McNeill keeps the peace and follows the directions of the Probation Service for five years.

Garda tip-off

The court heard that on the day of the search, gardaí went to the flat complex with a warrant, after receiving a tip-off that a man living there was involved in the movement of drugs.

During surveillance, they spotted this man arriving in McNeill’s car, and that McNeill was sitting in the passenger seat. The man cannot be named, as charges are pending against him.

Plunkett said that the man was seen going into the flat complex and coming back out, before the pair drove off and were stopped by gardaí a short time later.

Gardaí said both occupants of the car seemed very nervous at the time.

Three mobile phones, including one encrypted phone, were found during a subsequent search of the car.

Meanwhile, gardaí searched two apartments at the complex, one of which belonged to McNeill.

In McNeill’s flat, gardaí found almost 60kg of cannabis herb with an estimated street value of €1,199,540 and more than 2.1kg of cocaine worth €153,258.

Known as neighbour

McNeill cooperated with gardaí and told them where to find cash sums of €3,000 and €2,000 in the flat. She said she believed this money was to be passed on to the people who were going to collect the drugs.

McNeill also said she would receive a once-off payment of between €500 and €1,000 for her role in collecting and storing the drugs.

She told gardaí she had known the unnamed man as a neighbour for several years, and that he had a key to her flat.

She further told gardaí that she had lived in the Dublin City Council-owned flat for ten years, and that the drugs were being stored in an area that would not be accessible to her 14-year-old son.

She said that she had been under some pressure, in the form of peer pressure, to store the drugs. She has two previous minor convictions for road traffic offences.

When asked if she was angry at those behind the operation, she said: “I’m angry at myself. I’m 32, I’m not 12. It was a once-off, I wasn’t going to do it ever again.”

Plunkett agreed with Róisín Lacey SC, defending, that the accused’s main concern on arrest was for her son, who was at his father’s house at the time.

The court heard that McNeill’s relationship with her son’s father was volatile and extremely abusive, but that she had moved out of that flat and was now living in a county outside Dublin.

‘Remorseful beyond belief’

The court heard that a community garda who had known McNeill for 14 years because of her previous abusive relationship thought that this offence was “totally out of character” for her.

Counsel for the accused said that her client, who was now sole carer for her son, had moved out of Dublin and was working in a supermarket.

She said the accused had received help from Women’s Aid because of her previous abusive relationship.

The court heard that McNeill’s son, who suffers from ADHD, had witnessed the abuse of his mother at the hands of his father from an early age.

Counsel described her client as “remorseful beyond belief”.

The judge said that “you can’t just blind yourself to what’s going on in your apartment”, but added that O’Neill’s culpability was less than those actively involved in profiting from the drugs trade.

She sentenced the accused to nine years and jail, suspending the sentence in full on a number of conditions.

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