Prison officer jailed for Mountjoy drug-smuggling attempt

A prison officer who tried to smuggle more than €20,000 of drugs into Mountjoy has been jailed for five years.

Jarlath Walsh (aged 40) of Dublin 9, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of cocaine, cannabis and cannabis resin with intent to supply at the prison.

He also pleaded guilty to possession of thousands of tablets with intent to supply, including flurazepam, diazepam and oxymetholone.

The father of two told gardaí he only tried to smuggle the drugs into the prison where he worked because he was “afraid for himself and his family”.

Walsh said he had been forced to deliver the drugs after being threatened by men who jumped into his car with photographs of his family.

Detective Garda Fergal O’Flaherty told Roisin Lacey BL, prosecuting, that suspicions were raised when Walsh tried to avoid a routine search at Mountjoy Prison on December 20, 2010.

“He said he was in a hurry because he had left his bike unlocked,” said Det Gda O’Flaherty.

Walsh was brought to a search room where five packages containing a large amount of prescription tablets were found as well as two Meteor SIM cards.

Gardaí obtained a warrant to search Walsh’s car which was parked in the staff car park. They found cocaine as well as more prescription tablets.

Walsh told gardaí that he had made three other deliveries to prison but this was the largest one. He had worked at the prison since 1998.

Walsh told Det Gda O’Flaherty that roughly four months before his arrest he had pulled up at the shops at Collins Avenue in Dublin when two men jumped into his car. The men said they knew where he worked and wanted him to deliver a package of drugs to the prison.

Walsh said he refused their demand and fled the car, leaving it abandoned.

Walsh's father is a retired detective and when his son came to him for help, he advised him not to report the incident.

He told Det Gda O’Flaherty that they then dumped the drugs in a nearby skip.

Walsh said the men returned again with another package but this time they had photographs of his family and took his mobile number before making more threats.

He said he was upset but agreed to smuggle the drugs into the prison and leave them in the prisoner’s kitchen area.

Det Gda O’Flaherty said he found it difficult to investigate Walsh’s claims because the details were vague and so he couldn't prove or disprove the story.

The court heard that more than 3,500 tablets with a street value of €7,202 were found as well as cannabis resin valued at €6,758. The cocaine was worth €1,064. The combined total street value of the drugs found was €20, 454.

Michael O’Higgins, SC, defending, said it was a “sad day for Mr Walsh and his family”.

“The advice he got from his father was very poor advice indeed,” he added.

He described Walsh as “unbelievably foolish” and said it was hard to believe his father had advised him not to report the incident.

Mr O’Higgins said he had been asked to apologise to Walsh’s colleagues in the prison service for the breach of trust and to his family for his conduct.

He said any custodial sentence will be difficult for Walsh because he will have to be kept in a protected wing due to his work in the prison service. He asked Judge Patricia Ryan for mercy and clemency.

Judge Ryan said she took his early guilty plea into account as well as his co-operation with gardaí and the fact that he has no previous convictions.


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