A VOLUNTEER member of Kinsale RNLI has been jailed for seven years after he admitted distributing and storing almost €270,000 worth of cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy in his home.
Liam O’Connell was a cox of the RNLI’s Kinsale Lifeboat Sally Anne Baggy and was honoured with a West Cork Community Award for his role in helping rescue 30 sail training students from the tall ship, Astrid when she hit rocks and sank off Kinsale in July 2013.
But last week, O’Connell from Presentation Terrace, Kinsale was sentenced to 10 years in jail with three years suspended after he pleaded guilty to possessing cannabis, cocaine and MDMA or ecstasy for sale or supply at his home on October 27th 2017.
Det Sgt Joanne O’Brien told Cork Circuit Criminal Court how members of the West Cork Divisional Drugs Squad received intelligence about O’Connell and searched his house on the day in question and Det Garda Colin O’Mahony found three bags hidden in a wardrobe in O’Connell’s bedroom.
Gardaí found the bags contained large amounts of cocaine, cannabis and MDMA with the total value of the cocaine amounting to over €154,000, the value of the cannabis amounting to over €57,000 and the value of the MDMA amounting to over €56,000, giving a total value for the haul of €269,000.
Det Sgt O’Brien said that gardaí also found a ledger which was being used as a ticklist for dealers that O’Connell was supplying and he admitted previously collecting drugs in Dublin and bringing them to Kinsale where he stored them for distribution.
He was to be paid €6,700 for distributing and storing the seized drugs, said Det Sgt O’Brien, adding that O’Connell had no previous convictions and had previously worked as a fisherman and on the buildings but was on social welfare at the time of the seizure.
Defence counsel Siobhan Lankford SC said that her client was a valuable member of the volunteer RNLI crew in Kinsale and she presented a testimonial where one character witness said that O’Connell was the man to call if somebody found themselves in trouble in their boat off the Old Head of Kinsale at 4am.
She said he had assisted gardaí in their investigation and pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity, both of which she believed were sufficient grounds for Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin to use his discretion and not apply the mandatory 10-year sentence for drugs seizures over €13,000.
But Judge Ó Donnabháin said that O’Connell had exploited his status in the community where he was well respected because of his role as a volunteer member of the RNLI to trade in drugs as a distributor and storeman where drug dealers would call to his house for their supplies.
He said it was significant that O’Connell was not a drug user or drug addict himself and was solely in the drugs business to make a profit and, in those circumstances, notwithstanding his guilty plea, co-operation and lack of previous convictions, he felt 10 years was appropriate.
However he felt that O’Connell could contribute to society again as being a volunteer member of the RNLI and venturing forth in all types of weather clearly required courage and it was a job not everyone could do so he suspended the final three years, leaving O’Connell with a seven year jail term to serve.