Director of Public Prosecutions v Lawlor

JudgeMs. Justice Isobel Kennedy
Judgment Date27 November 2023
Neutral Citation[2023] IECA 304
CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
Docket NumberRecord Number: 66CJA/23

In the Matter of Section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1993

The People at the Suit of the Director of Public Prosecutions
Andrew Lawlor

[2023] IECA 304

Edwards J.

McCarthy J.

Kennedy J.

Record Number: 66CJA/23


JUDGMENT of the Court delivered ( ex tempore) on the 27 th day of November 2023 by Ms. Justice Isobel Kennedy.


. This is an application brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions pursuant to the provisions of s. 2 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1993, seeking a review on grounds of undue leniency of a sentence imposed on the respondent herein.


. On the 17 th February 2023, the respondent was sentenced to four and a half years' imprisonment with the final two and a half years suspended for an offence contrary to s. 15A of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977, to which offence he pleaded guilty on the 27 th April 2021.


. The offence the subject of the within application was discovered as a result of an intelligence led operation. On the 11 th July 2020, gardaí were in possession of information which led them to place a Scania truck that had arrived from Northern Ireland under surveillance. This vehicle was observed by gardaí travelling along the M1 and ultimately entering Ashbourne Business Centre where it was joined by a second vehicle, a Volkswagen Caddy.


. Following observations and the interaction of the vehicles, a decision was made by gardaí to intercept both drivers. The Volkswagen vehicle, driven by the respondent herein, was stopped and searched pursuant to s. 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977.


. A search of the Volkswagen vehicle ultimately uncovered 17 packages of cocaine, which were concealed in a sophisticated manner in the back of the vehicle within the interior of a red cylindrical vessel. This vessel had bolts which required the use of tools to open it and reveal the concealment. Such was the length of time it took gardaí to access the concealment that the respondent had to be released from the s. 23 detention.


. The total amount of drugs seized was approximately 16.7 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value in the region of €1,187,000. The respondent presented himself voluntarily, was interviewed and made admissions to possession. He also provided gardaí with a pre-prepared statement in the course of which he accepted possession of the drugs found in the Volkswagen vehicle. Nothing of evidential value arose in two subsequent interviews.


. The co-accused was sentenced by a different court and received a sentence of 3 years with 18 months suspended.

Personal Circumstances of the Respondent

. The respondent has a partner and two children, one of whom is an adult and the other of whom is a teenager. Gardaí were satisfied based on their dealings with the respondent and their reading of the reports before the sentencing court that the respondent suffered from an alcohol and cocaine addiction. The psychological report details that the respondent's addiction resulted in a number of suicide attempts and hospitalisations. He has four previous convictions, all pertaining to road traffic matters.


. There were a number of references before the sentencing court written in support of the respondent and outlining the efforts at self-rehabilitation undertaken by him while awaiting sentence. These letters detailed the respondent's engagement with the Liberty Soup Run, Cocaine Anonymous Ireland and the DARA Project and the respondent's drug dependency. There is no doubt, that the respondent made serious efforts to rehabilitate himself.

Sentencing Remarks

. The sentencing judge had regard to the cases of People (DPP) v Stephen Sarsfield [2019] IECA 260 and People (DPP) v Derek Long [2008] IECCA 133 and acknowledged the statutory framework to which cases contrary to s. 15A are subject.


. The judge listed the aggravating factors as the significant amount of cocaine uncovered, that it was a careful operation where the respondent arrived with a pre-prepared concealment, that a significant amount of planning was involved and that the guard described this as a sophisticated arrangement with regard to the concealment.


. In terms of mitigation, the judge took into account the very early admission reflected in the pre-prepared statement, the very early plea of guilty, the passage of time since the plea was entered and the respondent's use of that time, the respondent's alcohol and cocaine issues and that those were related to the offending behaviour. The judge also bore in mind the sentence imposed on the respondent's co-accused, a sentence of three years' imprisonment with the final 18 months suspended but noted that the co-accused suffered from serious health difficulties. The judge considered that the respondent has no relevant previous convictions and that the gardaí have accepted that the respondent has experienced something of a “wake-up call.”


. The judge nominated a headline sentence of six and a half years, reducing this to a sentence of four and a half years with the final two and half years suspended leading to an effective sentence of two years' imprisonment.

Submissions of the Director

. The Director relies on several grounds of application, in essence, she contends that the judge erred in her nomination of the headline sentence, in particular given the value of the drugs and the manner of their concealment. Moreover, she argues that the judge gave excessive discount for mitigation and erred in the manner in which she partially suspended the sentence. Thus, imposing a sentence which, it is said, was unduly lenient.


. It is noted that the concealment involved in this case was not temporary or ad hoc.


. The Director relies on several comparator cases, but in particular makes reference in oral submission to People (DPP) v Morrow [2019] IECA 268 where this Court did not interfere with a sentence of 8 years' imprisonment imposed for a seizure of €1.4 million in value. It is said that the circumstances of that case are broadly similar to the circumstances in the present case save that the accused in Morrow made no admissions and an early plea was not entered.


. Reliance is also...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT