'Road to Damascus moment' for Tipperary man caught with 'significant' quantity of tablets

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'Road to Damascus moment' for Tipperary man caught with 'significant' quantity of tablets

Clonmel District Court

A man found in possession of a “significant” quantity of drugs after overtaking a garda patrol car in County Tipperary has avoided jail.

Christopher Eleker of 16 Cherrymount, Clonmel was before Cashel District Court on unlawful possession of Diazepam and for having the tablets for the purpose of selling or supplying. 

Sergeant Carol O’Leary said the defendant only came to garda attention on the night of April 30, 2018, after overtaking a patrol car at Dogstown, New Inn.

The vehicle was searched under the Misuse of Drugs Act and the tablets worth approximately €2,930 were discovered. 

Sgt O’Leary added that the defendant’s only previous conviction was for a public order offence from 2010. 

Defence solicitor Eamon Hayes said that when his client was arrested and brought to the garda station, he cooperated and didn’t delay the interview process, despite it being in the early hours of the morning and having the right to do so. 

His client was en route home from Northern Ireland having visited friends when he was stopped by gardaí. In Northern Ireland he purchased one tranche of the tablets and was offered a second tranche. 

The solicitor said his client didn’t intend to sell the tablets. He has a friend who is addicted to Valium and the plan was that this friend would purchase some of the tablets. 

His client had been raised in the United Kingdom until the age of 12, had previously worked in Australia and has since taken residence in Clonmel, where his mother is from. The solicitor said his client has little contact with his father in the United Kingdom. 

The solicitor said his client developed an addiction to Valium in his teenage years, which “became more profound”.

He had worked “gainfully” in Australia, but his Valium addiction has become an issue again since he moved to Clonmel in conjunction with alcohol. 

‘ROAD TO DAMASCUS’

Mr Hayes said meeting gardaí on the night was a “Road to Damascus” moment in his client’s life. 

Alcohol was going to be “destructive” in his life, and he had an episode of overdosing with Valium as a teenager which was construed by medical authorities as an attempt to take his own life, the solicitor continued. 

“[He’s] aware that the day that has dawned was coming,” Mr Hayes said. 

He completed his Leaving Certificate and has obtained qualifications as a fitness coach and in healthcare. The solicitor said the healthcare qualification in particular is “significant” in terms of securing work in Ireland and allows him to work as a nurse in Australia. 

The solicitor said this issue is impacting his client’s relationship, which is  in “a degree of suspension”. His client’s partner works in a “sensitive industry” and a conviction could impact on her career. 

The solicitor said his client has assisted a charitable organisation for young people who come from poor accommodation locally and that he also fosters sick animals until they are well enough to be released. 

His client “fully appreciates the significant value of the tablets” and was “most anxious” to avoid it being recorded. 

“From a career perspective, a formal recording would follow him to Australia and certainly here,” Mr Hayes said, who urged the court to take an alternative approach to imposing a conviction.

Judge Terence Finn said the quantity of tablets found “does not occur by accident”.

The judge said normally a sale or supply charge would be applied. 

The judge said he would be “subject to criticism” from his peers and society in general if the offence wasn’t formally recorded. 

Judge Finn added that it would undermine the efforts of the gardaí in tackling drug crime. 

He sentenced the defendant to eight months of imprisonment, suspended on a Section 99 bond for a period of two years.