DPP v Collopy

CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
JudgeMr. Justice Edwards
Judgment Date10 December 2018
Neutral Citation[2018] IECA 387
Docket NumberRecord No: 204 2016
Date10 December 2018

[2018] IECA 387


Edwards J.

Birmingham P.

Edwards J.

Kennedy J.

Record No: 204 2016


Crime & sentencing – Misuse of drugs – Diamorphine – Possession for purpose of supply – Severity of sentence

Facts: The appellant had been found in possession of a substantial quantity of diamorphine following a drugs raid in Limerick in 2015. He was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment and now appealed against the severity of sentence.

Held by the Court, that the appeal would be dismissed. Whilst an element of the sentencing judge’s judgment was unfortunately phrased, it could not be said that the judge had erred in principle or that the term of 8 years was beyond the range available.

JUDGMENT of the Court (ex tempore) delivered on the 10th December 2018 by Mr. Justice Edwards .

On the 5th April 2016, the appellant signed pleas of guilty to a number of drugs offences, including an offence contrary to s. 15A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 as amended (‘the Act of 1977’); an offence contrary to s. 15 of the Act of 1977; and an offence contrary to s. 3 of the Act of 1977. These pleas were later affirmed by the appellant at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court on the 15th April 2016.


The sentencing hearing took place at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court on the 18th July 2016, following which judgment was reserved. On the 20th of July 2016 the appellant received a sentence of 8 years” imprisonment on the s.15 offence, backdated to the 15th of December 2015. In circumstances where all three offences to which the appellant signed pleas of guilty arose out of the same seizure of diamorphine, the sentencing judge opted to make no order with respect to the s.15 and s.3 charges, respectively.


The appellant now appeals against the severity of the sentence.

Background Facts

Detective Sergeant Alan Cullen of the Limerick Drugs Squad gave evidence that on that on the 15th of December 2015, the Gardaí searched the conjoined properties of 34 and 36 St. Ita's Street, which were connected through the kitchen area at ground floor level and also through a door on the first floor. The Gardaí, having arrived at approximately 7 pm, gained forced entry though the front door of number 34 whilst other Gardaí covered the entrance to number 36. The Gardaí then upon entering found the appellant's brother, Kieran Collopy, exiting a bathroom in number 36, and the appellant, Brian Collopy, in a bedroom also in No 36.


In a further search of the common kitchen area, 10 single ounce packets containing Diamorphine – commonly known as Heroin – were found wrapped in black plastic on a countertop. There was also visible evidence of dust and powder in the area, later confirmed to be Diamorphine, as well as paraphernalia for weighing and handling the substance. A mobile phone found adjacent to the Diamorphine packages, had traces of the appellant's DNA on it. The total amount of Diamorphine found by the Gardaí came to 264.44 grams, which was said to have an estimated market value of €37,000.


Further evidence was recovered on the staircase and in the upstairs bathroom from which Mr Kieran Collopy had exited, including the presence of a weighing scales, and a saucepan, both of which bore traces of Diamorphine. In addition, a small amount of wet Diamorphine powder was found in the bathtub. At the scene, both men denied knowledge of the presence of Diamorphine at the property. In the course of further searching of the property quantities of cash were found in two locations, i.e., €800 in a kitchen cupboard and €340 in an upstairs bedroom.


In giving evidence at the sentencing hearing, Sergeant Cullen stated that the ounce bags of Diamorphine would in all likelihood be sold to wholesalers, who would then further divide the substance and sell it to street level dealers. In Sergeant Cullen's opinion, the Collopy brothers sat atop the pyramid of Diamorphine distribution in Limerick.


The Gardaí, and counsel for the prosecution, have conceded that the guilty pleas were offered at the earliest possible opportunity and that the appellant should be regarded as having been of material assistance.

Appellant's Personal Circumstances

The appellant was born on the 11th of August 1972. He is married with four children, and is currently unemployed and in receipt of social welfare. He is one of a large family of seven brothers. He has a number of health issues and is currently on medication for a heart complaint. He has several previous convictions, largely relating to road traffic matters but also involving criminal damage and theft. In addition, he has one relevant conviction from 2002 related to s.3 possession of drugs, for which he was fined €250, and one significant conviction dating from 2011, in respect of threatening to kill a witness in criminal proceedings against his brothers. Arising from the latter, the appellant served six years in prison and was released 11 months prior to the offence that now concerns the court.

Sentencing Judge's Remarks

In passing sentence upon the appellant, the sentencing judge, having rehearsed the relevant evidence, made the following sentencing remarks (inter alia):

‘Insofar as section 15A and the statutory scheme of things is concerned, it is important to note that there is a different sentencing regime for the ordinary charge of possession for sale or supply, or the ordinary section 15 as it's more commonly referred to, and a charge under section 15A or section 15B where the value of the drugs exceeds €13,000. Conviction under section 15A and/or section 15B automatically attract a basic presumptive sentence of 10 years or more. This applies regardless of the mitigating factors that may exist, meriting a lower sentence. A sentencing Court may, however, impose a lower sentence where there are mitigating factors that amount to exceptional and specific circumstances which would render the imposition of a 10-year sentence or more unjust in all the circumstances. It is important to note that the case law suggests that the 10-year presumptive sentence is not to be regarded as the starting baseline. In considering a sentence for offences contrary to section 15A or B, regard must be had for the provisions of section 27(3), the penalties section, and in particular, subsections 3(c) and 3(d). A Court may consider departing from the presumptive sentence if it is satisfied that particular circumstances prevail, and matters that can be considered include; the stage at which the plea was indicated, the circumstances in which the indication was given, whether the person was of material assistance, whether there are any previous convictions for drug trafficking offences, and whether the public interest in preventing drug trafficking would be served by the imposition of a lesser sentence. I should say also that in their pleas of mitigation, counsel for the defendants referred to several cases for guidance from the Court of Criminal Appeal and Court of Appeal.

Insofar as the aggravating factors are concerned in this particular case, the nature of the drugs involved, Diamorphine, otherwise known as heroin, is a dangerous,...

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1 cases
  • DPP v M.O'D.
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 21 October 2022
    ...refers to several cases involving signed pleas; including, The People (DPP) v Tiso [2018] IECA 377, The People (DPP) v Collopy [2018] IECA 387, The People (DPP) v McInerney [2019] IECA 312, The People (DPP) v Cambridge [2019] IECA 133, The People (DPP) v Hayes [2020] IECA 257 and The People......

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