Possession of Cannabis
for Sale or Supply –
Possession of Cannabis for Sale or Supply
Tom, a young man in his early twenties, appeared in the District Court after being charged with possession of cannabis and possession of cannabis for sale and supply. He had no previous convictions and he pleaded guilty to both charges. Before making a sentencing decision, the Judge referred Tom to an NGO which delivers restorative justice. When referring him to the NGO, the Judge suggested drug awareness as a particular area of focus during Tom’s participation on the programme.
At his first meeting with the NGO Caseworker, Tom stated that he was drug-free, and that he had been so since he was arrested and charged. He presented as being unaware of the harmful effects of cannabis on a person’s mental and physical wellbeing, and of the broader negative impact that drugs can have on communities. However, he recognised that his relationship with his family had been negatively affected by the offence: his mother, sister and much younger niece were present when the Gardaí raided and searched his home, discovering a quantity of cannabis amounting to €500, as well as a set of scales.
Upon speaking with the Caseworker, Tom shared that he had been smoking cannabis for approximately three years before his arrest. He had been unemployed during this time and funded his own cannabis use by selling to friends and other people in his area. He also disclosed that he did not have a good relationship with the Gardaí and admitted to being distrusting of members of the Gardaí.
At the end of the meeting with the Caseworker, Tom confirmed that he was willing to participate in the Reparation Programme and an appointment was made for him to meet a reparation panel. The panel was chaired by a trained volunteer and attended by his Caseworker, a Probation Officer and a member of An Garda Síochána. All present at a reparation panel discuss the harm done by the offence and agree reparative actions to help repair the harm done. These actions are written into a ‘contract’ that is given to the Judge in advance of sentencing.
During the panel meeting, Tom took responsibility for the offence and his actions. He spoke again of his lack of awareness of the damaging impact of drug use on people and communities, as well as his lack of trust in the Gardaí. Tom presented as being genuinely remorseful for the impact that his offence had on his family. He was concerned in particular about maintaining a positive relationship with his niece, who was also his goddaughter.
The members of the panel acknowledged Tom’s remorse and willingness to address these issues as part of the programme. It was also noted that he had not come to Garda attention since the offence and that he stated that he was drug free. All present then focused on the type of actions Tom might undertake to demonstrate his learning and remorse. Tom agreed to the following actions:
- attend a Substance Misuse Awareness group discussion, facilitated by a drug support worker;
- his Caseworker was to facilitate a meeting with a member of the Garda Drugs Unit to assist Tom in gaining insight into its work. This was also an opportunity for Tom to discuss and consider his relationship with the Gardaí;
- write a letter of apology to his mother and sister;
- write a letter to his niece which would include advice for the future; and,
- write a reflective piece highlighting the effects of drug use on communities.
Tom attended a Substance Misuse Awareness meeting, throughout which he engaged and contributed. He stayed behind afterwards to ask further questions about the links between drug use and criminality.
The meeting with a member of the Garda Drugs Unit gave Tom an opportunity to hear their perspective on detecting and apprehending drug dealers. Tom also discussed his perceptions of the Gardaí, and later stated that this meeting helped him gain new insights and a more positive perspective on the Gardaí. He also said that this was the first time he felt that a member of the Gardaí had listened to him.
After completing all the actions in the ‘contract’, Tom met the panel for a second time. He shared his thoughts on the meetings he attended and showed the group copies of his apology letters and written reflection. Tom said that he was grateful for the opportunity to engage in the Reparation Programme and that his attitude towards Gardaí and drug use had changed since the meetings.
Tom said that the letters of apology to his mother and sister helped him address the harm the offence caused and repair the relationships with his family. He was emotional when asked about the letter for his niece. He stated that this letter was particularly important to him as he was the only male figure in his niece’s life and he wanted to be a ‘role model’ for her. He also told the panel members that he had applied for jobs and had several interviews to look forward to in the coming weeks.
The panel members agreed that Tom had completed his contract to a high standard; they believed he had benefitted from the programme and they wished him luck for the future. On returning to court, the Judge commented positively on his written work and emphasised the effort that he had put into the letter to his niece. The Judge ultimately struck out the case, meaning that Tom has no criminal record arising from the offences.