DPP v Fanning
 IECA 11
THE COURT OF APPEAL
20/2011 - Ryan Mahon Edwards - Court of Appeal - 19/1/2015 - 2015 IECA 11
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Sentencing – Possession of drugs – Undue leniency – Applicant seeking to review sentence – Whether sentence imposed was unduly lenient
1. This is an application by the Director of Public Prosecutions under s. 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1993 for an order reviewing the sentence imposed on the respondent on the 11 th of February, 2013 at Carlow Circuit Criminal Court. The respondent was charged with possession of approximately 19.6 kg of cannabis with an estimated street value of €235,000. In December 2011 he was arraigned and pleaded guilty and the sentence hearing took place on the 16th of March, 2012 when the matter was adjourned for a period of one year during which the respondent was on bail and required to co-operate with the probation service.
2. The evidence established that on the 29 th of March 2011, Gardai stopped the respondent's car on the M9 motorway and found 20 packages of cannabis herb weighing 9.6 kg in the boot and they also found two mobile phones. The value of the drugs was €235,000.
3. Mr. Fanning admitted possession of the drugs, "knowledge of what he had done to a certain extent" according to the investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Egan. He said that he was short of money and he hoped to get between €5,000 and €10,000 for this run. He cooperated to the extent of admitting his own involvement but did not provide further information.
4. Detective Sgt. Egan classed Mr Fanning as being mid-table in regard to his involvement in the group dealing in the drugs. "He, throughout his interviews, outlined that he wasn't in fear of these persons and I would believe that to be true. He would know them and I believe that's why he didn't fear them. I would also say on his behalf the drugs that were brought in on the day, I don't believe Mr. Fanning was going to - while he says he owns them, it's not my belief he did own them, it is my belief he couriered them in for these other persons. I don't believe he would have sold them. I believe he was used as a courier, with full co-operation on his behalf and under no threat, but just primarily for financial gain." Mr. Fanning would have been well rewarded for his work but would not have shared in the profits from the sale of the drugs. The Sergeant did not believe that Mr. Fanning was always truthful during the interviews; he knew that some of the accounts that he gave were untrue.
5. Mr. Fanning had no previous convictions-apart from a road traffic matter. He has a child who lives in Spain with a former partner. He has worked most of his life but was unemployed at the time. He was working as a barman in a well-established bar in Dublin at the date of trial. He gave as a reason for committing the crime that he wanted to go to Spain to see his daughter and to pay arrears of maintenance. He is a cannabis user. In general, the Sergeant said that Mr Fanning "just barely gave answers to what he knew we knew." He accepted defence counsel's suggestion that Mr Fanning had said on one occasion: "I'm in fear for others around me". The Sergeant also agreed that Mr Fanning believed he was collecting a significantly lesser amount of drugs than was actually the case because the original intention was for half of that quantity to be collected but the plan changed on the morning. He agreed that it was a gamble he took that didn't pay off.
6. Mr. Fanning gave evidence to the sentencing court. He was working as a barman in Dublin and had in his career worked in bars and in construction. He was aged 31 at the time of the sentence hearing on 16 March 2012. He has a daughter aged eight years. She lives in Spain with her mother. He said that his involvement in this offence was related to a desire to provide for his daughter;
"It was. I cannot condone what I've done, my part that I've played in this, but it was a means to try and get some money for the arrears of my maintenance that I owe her and to go and see her."
7. He said that he could not have spoken about the people above him in the business or give names because of fear of repercussions. If you disclose any information in the interviews or in court his life would be at risk.
8. The court had a probation report and counsel submitted a number of testimonials. Defence counsel cited the probation report as indicating that the respondent had acquired insight into the offences, had remorse and an understanding of the effect of drugs on the community, had referred himself for counselling in respect of addiction difficulties, that he was at low to moderate risk of reoffending and could be subjected to the standard supervision by the probation services. He also referred to the significant family support available to him and the testimonials including the reference and testimonial from Mr Farnning's employer.
9. At the sentence hearing on the 16th March 2012, the trial judge said that the case was a serious one as was evident from the quantity of drugs involved and that the respondent when questioned was cooperative only to a degree that was essentially necessitated by what the Gardai had found in their search and he had given some information that was untrue. The judge acknowledged that a section 15A case was a serious one for that reason alone. He noted that the respondent had points against him but there was also a considerable body of mitigating factors that counsel had put before the court. He said that the case warranted a 10 year sentence. However, the judge put his decision back for one year and said that how much if any of the sentence was to be suspended would depend to a very considerable degree on how the respondent conducted himself in the meantime. In addition to his bail terms, he was required to continue to cooperate with the probation service.
10. When the matter came back before the learned sentencing judge on the 11 th of February, 2013 he imposed the wholly suspended sentence that is the subject of the application by the Director. On this occasion, the judge referred to the mandatory minimum sentence stipulated for this offence. He noted the value of the drugs and took that as a significantly aggravating factor. He regarded the case is being in the middle range of such offences. Then he turned to the mitigating factors, noting the early plea of guilty and the admissions that the respondent made to the Gardaí, which made the investigation of the case and prosecution very much easier. The judge referred to a disagreement between the investigating Garda officer and the respondent as to the reason for lack of more extensive cooperation and was sympathetic of the position of the accused in being fearful of the consequences of giving information about the hierarchy of the organisation in which he was involved. The respondent had no previous convictions and had indicated a high level of remorse as well as having gained a real insight into the misery caused by drugs. He changed his life to a very considerable extent and the probation report indicated that the respondent had moved further away from its previous criminal ways and into a more stable environment. He had risk factors from alcohol and gambling but changed employment to move away from the risk factors and was now not working in the...
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