Two Polish men operating as drug mules were caught with €35,000 worth of cannabis on a bus going through Midleton after being in Ireland for only one week at the time, hoping to get jobs in construction.
They have been in jail since their arrest on the bus last September.
Now they have been given five-year jail sentences – backdated to September but to be suspended as soon as their families come up with plane tickets for them to fly back home.
Defence senior counsels, Alice Fawsitt and Ray Boland, said both men had come to Ireland to get employment because of family circumstances at home. By coincidence, each man had a sick child in need of medical care in Poland. Documents were presented at Cork Circuit Criminal Court proving this.
The lawyers said both men were extremely anxious to return home to their families in Poland and that there was not an objection to this from gardaí.
Krzstof Dziezanowski and Artur Gaydowski, with an address at Olympia apartments, Parnell Street, Waterford, affirmed their pleas of guilty to the main charge of having been in possession of the drug for the purpose of sale or supply on September 15 at Youghal Road, Midleton, County Cork, at a time when its street value exceeded €13,000. This threshold figure allows for a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years unless the sentencing judge finds there are exceptional circumstances.
A Polish interpreter was present in court to translate proceedings by video link to prison for the two accused. The case arose out of the seizure of cannabis herb as part of Operation Tara on the afternoon of Wednesday, September 15, 2021.
Garda Diarmuid O’Neill said there was a garda checkpoint in Midleton and that when gardaí boarded the bus there was a smell of cannabis from where both of the accused were sitting. They both had gear bags containing vacuum-packed bags of cannabis herb.
The Midleton District Drug Unit carried out the checkpoint on Youghal Road and stopped the public bus and conducted a search under Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977/84 and cannabis herb with a street value of €35,000 was seized.
Judge Helen Boyle said: “You have come forward on a signed plea of guilty where you were arrested carrying quantities of cannabis and a further quantity was found at your home. Each of you was carrying (over) €14,000 worth of cannabis on the bus. A further search of your apartment revealed cannabis of €7,400.
“You were both in Ireland for only a week when this occurred. You both came to Ireland looking for work but did not find work in the construction industry. Neither of you has any previous convictions and you have both been in custody since September 16, 2021.”
Ms Fawsitt, for Dziezanowski, said he had a child in Poland who is not in good health and there was documentary evidence of the serious illness. Mr Boland, for Gaydowski, said this was not a sophisticated operation and that there was a smell of cannabis from both of the men on the bus.
Judge Boyle said: “Both counsels submitted this was at the lower end of the scale. You have both come forward on a signed plea of guilty. Neither of you sought bail arising out of this offence.
“Your counsel ask for you to be allowed to return to Poland immediately, you already having spent time in custody in this jurisdiction. I accept that your role in this was as so-called mules and you were at the lowest end of the scale.”