Out of work butcher avoids jail for having €137k of heroin 'under duress'

An out-of-work butcher caught with over €137,000 of heroin in his van has been spared jail after a judge accepted he was acting under duress.

Anthony Naughton (aged 28), initially told gardaí who stopped his van that he was collecting bread to feed his horses.

Naughton of Muskerry Road, Ballyfermot later pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possessing drugs for sale or supply at Steeples Apartment complex in Chapelizod on Feb 6, 2012.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring said she accepted that he was acting under huge pressure from dangerous people both before and after being caught with the drugs.

She said the pressure was so intense that she felt she could take the unusual step of imposing a non-custodial term.

She imposed a six year sentence on Naughton which she suspended in full for six years on strict conditions.

Garda Adrian Eustace told Cormac Quinn BL, prosecuting, that the accused was driving a white Ford Transit van on the day in question.

The van pulled into a laneway beside the Village Inn on Tyrconnell Road and a man came out of the pub and placed a package in the footwell.

Gardaí followed the car and stopped it at the apartment complex in Chapelizod, but it took Naughton some time to step out.

He was visibly shaking, agitated, twitching and fiddling, and avoided questions put to him by gardaí.

He told gardaí there was nothing at all in the van, but they found a Spar plastic bag under the seat containing a package wrapped in brown tape.

Naughton said he had no idea what was in the bag and hadn't put it there.

It was later found to contain 917 grammes of heroin with a market value of €137,580.

Naughton was arrested and admitted to gardaí that he was “dabbling in coke” and had run up a bill.

He said he had been threatened to hold the drugs, and that his parents had also been threatened.

Naughton told gardaí his jaw had been broken, his van had been vandalised and his mother's house had been damaged by those who threatened him.

Caroline Biggs SC, defending, said there was “real evidence” of duress in the case and that Naughton had been afraid.

“He was involved, but not willingly,” she said, adding that he was now ashamed and remorseful of his role.

The court heard that he had suffered “significant assaults” after the incident, and that one attack had left a scar over his eyebrow.

Naughton has 21 previous convictions for road traffic offences. His family has no history of criminality counsel said.

He worked for ten years with a meat company before setting up his own business. He is now unemployed.

He told gardaí that he was lucky to make €100 a week doing deliveries.

A psychiatric report showed that Naughton had dyslexia and ADHD but was well able and willing to work.

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