Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Niall Collins asked judge not to jail drug dealer

Wednesday 18 June 2014 20.59
Niall Collins is Fianna Fáil's justice spokesperson
Niall Collins is Fianna Fáil's justice spokesperson

It has emerged that Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Niall Collins wrote to a judge asking him not to jail a convicted drug dealer.

Judge Caroll Moran was asked not to attach any weight to the letter written by the high-profile public representative at a sitting of Limerick Circuit Criminal Court earlier this week.

The handwritten letter by Mr Collins was presented by lawyers representing a 40-year-old father-of-four from Co Limerick.

Earlier this year, Hugo Porter of St Patrick's Villa's Castleconnell, Co Limerick pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis and cannabis resin for the purpose of sale or supply.

The drugs, which had a street value of almost €18,000, were recovered by gardaí in a field at Garden Hill, Castleconnell Co Limerick, on 24 June 2011.

Mr Porter also faces the possibility of having to serve a two-year prison sentence which was suspended in 2009 for an assault where he produced a broken glass during a dispute in Co Clare.

At his sentencing hearing on Monday Judge Moran was told Mr Porter was the sole carer of his four young children as his wife had died in tragic circumstances earlier this year.

Defence Counsel Michael Collins BL argued that the family circumstances of the accused man placed the case in the "exceptional category".

He said this was supported by the letter written by Mr Collins, which was presented to Judge Moran.

The letter, which was not read out in court was dated last month, and was written on personalised headed paper and included Mr Collins's photograph and contact details.

Prosecution Counsel John O'Sullivan urged Judge Moran "not to attach too much weight" to the letter written by Mr Collins.

He said the practice of public representatives writing to sentencing judges was "not uncommon" in the recent past but that it is longer commonplace.

Mr O'Sullivan said he had no difficulty with the evidence of Peace Commissioner Frank Ryan, who gave evidence on behalf of Mr Porter.

Mr Ryan said that he has known the Porters for a long time.

"Hugo has been a terrific father to those four children since their mother died".

He described Mrs Porter's death last January as tragic and said the whole village has rallied around the family in support.

Mr Ryan said that he does not "condone drugs, but I am asking you for leniency because jailing Hugo would be an awful loss for those children," adding "God only knows what would happen to them and it is the school holidays coming up and they need their father".

Judge Moran was told that the children had received counselling from Console and that in particular, one of the children had taken the death of his mother "very badly".

Mr Ryan urged Judge Moran not to impose a custodial sentence on humanitarian grounds.

He said Mr Porter comes from a "decent, hard-working family" who have settled in the Castleconnell area of Co Limerick.

A co-accused in the drugs case Alan Lysaght, 39, from Scanlon Park, Castleconnell, Co Limerick, was jailed for three years with the final year suspended.

Adjourning sentencing in the case of Mr Porter, Judge Moran said that he had to consider the possible activation of a suspended sentence for the previous Ennis assault case and an appropriate sentence for the drugs case.

Judge Moran said that he was "being asked to consider the impact of jailing the father of four vulnerable children in an exceptional case where the entire community has rallied around the Porter family".

Sentencing was adjourned until 10 October.

Attempts to contact Mr Collins have been unsuccessful.