A “vulnerable” young mother whose apartment was used to store over half a million euro worth of heroin and cocaine has been jailed for three years.
Sarah Clarke (25) “visibly recoiled” when she was shown the nearly four kilos of heroin that was being held in her apartment, Garda Daniel McFeely told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
The mother-of-one knew drugs were being held in her apartment in order to pay off a drug debt, but was unaware of what was in the package or the value of the drugs involved, the court heard.
Clarke, with an address in New Bancroft Place, Tallaght, Dublin, pleaded guilty to possessing heroin and cocaine for sale or supply on October 17, last year.
She has no previous convictions.
Sentencing her on Wednesday, Judge Martin Nolan accepted Clarke was unaware of exactly what kind and quantity drugs were being stored in her apartment.
But he said she was aware that drugs were being stored.
Judge Nolan said the mitigating factors in the case were her early guilty plea, her co-operation with gardaí, her personal circumstances and her lack of previous convictions.
He said that while it was undoubted that Clarke was pressurised to hold the drugs and the court was very sympathetic to the defendant, it could not go to the extent of imposing a non-custodial sentence.
Judge Nolan sentenced Clarke to six years imprisonment, but suspended the final three years of the sentence on condition that she keep the peace and be of good behaviour during her incarceration and for three years post release.
Clarke burst into tears after the judge had passed the sentence, as did several women in the body of the court.
The court heard Clarke’s apartment, where she lived with her child, was searched by gardaí with a warrant on the date in question after they received a tip-off.
A package containing €553,000 worth of heroin and €34,600 worth of cocaine was discovered in the home, which was empty at the time.
Clarke was later arrested in a family member’s home.
She told gardaí she had a historic drug debt amounting to €5000 and, upon moving into the apartment, was contacted by the individuals she owed money to.
She provided a spare key and the package was placed in the apartment when she was not present, Gda McFeely said.
She told gardaí she did not look inside the package.
Sean Gillane SC, defending Clarke, said his client was so afraid of what might be in the package that she stayed away from her home after it was placed there.
He said she asked the individuals to remove it but was fobbed off.
Mr Gillane submitted his client was entirely honest in her interview with gardaí, was often tearful and “physically recoiled when the heroin was produced”.
He said Clarke had a history of cocaine abuse arising from a difficult family background but had since rehabilitated herself for the sake of her daughter.
She has worked as a special needs assistant and had been training to care for the elderly, the court heard.
Moving into her own home was the start of a new life for Clarke, Mr Gillane submitted. “But as soon as she gets these premises, starts a new life, these others drag her back,” he told the court.
His client was a vulnerable person, he added.