A Ramelton man has been fined €2,400 after being found to be cultivating cannabis in a loft.
Conrad Neale, 44, of Lennon Bank Cottage, Ramelton, pleaded guilty to eight charges of possession and one charge of cultivation of cannabis.
Counsel for the State, Ms Patricia McLaughlin BL, told the court that Detective Garda Enda Jennings received confidential information that Neale was growing cannabis in the loft at his home.
Surveillance was carried out and a search warrant was obtained.
Two grow tents and a drying wardrobe were found when Gardaí raided the property and a large amount of drugs were found in the drawer of a desk.
Small quantities of various drugs, including cannabis, cannabis resin, LSD, MDMA, tetrahydrocannabinol, methylphenidate, cannabinol and morphine were located.
All quantities, bar the cannabis, were ‘very small’ and the court heard that the LSD was left in Neale’s home by another party.
Gardaí seized 29 cannabis plants which were at various stages of maturity. Neale had lights, heat lamps, heaters and other paraphernalia to assist in the growing operation.
Neale, who the court heard is a carer for his parents, said the cannabis was for his own use.
Barrister for Neale, Mr Peter Nolan BL, said his client works part time as a civil engineer and previously went to work for a charity that set up small hospitals in Nepal.
Earlier in the year, Neale was acquitted by a jury of possessing cannabis with intent to sell or supply the drug.
Judge John Aylmer said the method of cultivation of cannabis was ‘fairly sophisticated’.
“It is nevertheless a serious offence,” Judge Aylmer said, noting that his starting point for a penalty was a fine of €3,000.
“This case should be dealt with on the basis that he was cultivating the cannabis for personal use.”
The ‘non-cannabis products’, Judge Aylmer said were ‘very small’.
“Cannabis was his poison so to speak,” Judge Aylmer said. “From the outset, I has been established that he was completely cooperative with the investigation - right down to offering the Gardaí a cup of tea as they carried out the search. He could not have been more cooperative.”
Neale’s educational background, his employment history and what he called ‘very audible charity work’ were taken into account by Judge Aylmer.
For the charge of cultivation of cannabis, Neale was fined €2,000.
On eight charges of the possession of drugs, fines of €50 were issued.
Judge Aylmer allowed six months to pay the fines. A destruction order for the drugs, sought by Ms McLaughlin, was granted.
The court directed that a sum of €6,650 cash, which was seized by Gardaí, be returned to Neale.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.