Will They Ever Cop On?

Nicholas takes a look at An Garda Síochána’s recent call for action on the war on drugs, an arrest of a former superintendent and requests for more surveillance on the public.  Will they ever cop on? Or will they continue kicking the can down the road?

With the black market back up and running within hours after raids, a retired garda superintendent arrested for possession, proposals for increased surveillance and an overall oblivious approach to their war on drugs, the hi-vis protectors of the public have had quite a year.  As we battle rising costs of inflation, possible food shortages and definite housing shortages, we mustn’t ignore how Drew Harris’ bravest are coping with the increased usage of cannabis and the possible solutions they have in tackling what they consider more important than assaults, rape and robbery. 

In Galway, Garda Chief Superintendent Tom Curley has committed to directing more resources to tackle the black market.  The war on drugs has become the top priority going forward.  In justifying his stance, Mr Curley said “Only for the demand is there for illegal drugs, then the criminal gangs simply wouldn’t have the ready market available to them for the sale of those substances”.[1]  Couldn’t agree more Mr Curley.  If only there was a way of disabling the black market while providing clean, safe, regulated cannabis to the public. 

This comes after a reported increase in cases of domestic violence, cybercriminals targeting pensioners and alcohol-fuelled assaults.  But yes, the black market is the biggest threat to the citizens of Galway and requires devout attention.  While the circulation of cocaine, ecstasy and other Class A drugs are problematic in society, the criminalisation of cannabis fuels the channels that distribute them.  Eliminating cannabis from the black market altogether would weaken their position significantly as the gateway myth would be dissolved and the “war on drugs” would finally see a return on its investment.

What resources Mr Curley is referring to more than likely fall under a recently passed bill, the Garda Síochána (Functions and Operational Areas) Act 2022.[2]  The new bill recommends the granting of powers unseen in the ranks of the Gardaí.  The powers include the authority to stop and search for possession of prohibited materials along with the ability to sign off on search warrants which furthermore affords the Gardaí to exclude any legal counsel they consider to be “disruptive”. 

The law reform commission states clearly that warrants are only to be issued by the courts.  The new bill proposed a provision where garda members are enabled to issue search warrants in cases of urgent importance, contrary to the view of the Law Reform Commission.[3]  I’m sure Ireland being fast-tracked into 1984 by one of the most incompetent police forces in Europe will quell all of the problems we face today. Still, raids will continue, smokers will be prosecuted and the black market will prevail as they return to operations within the hour of a raid which is the case for residents in Limerick. [4]

Surprisingly, the Gardaí themselves aren’t being left out of the fun.  John Murphy, a 61-year-old retired Garda Superintendent was charged with possessing cannabis worth over €13,000 at his home in north Dublin under section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act 2007.  The seizure, carried out by the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation discovered cannabis during search operations on September 29th 2021. He had been granted free legal aid in the realisation of a possible 10-year sentence to which he remained in custody since the initial arrest.  He pled guilty on March 24th 2022 and the Director of Public Prosecutions consented.  Mr Murphy was remanded in custody until the 4th of October when he will be formally sentenced.  No doubt, Mr Murphy stepped on the wrong toes as this is one of the very few cases with little leniency for a former Garda, especially considering his prolonged stay at Cloverhill Prison. 

Though one would expect his sentencing may very well fall under the amount the time he has spent on remand, meaning he could very well be a free man come October. A luxury not befitting of a civilian caught with the reported figure.   

The €13,000 worth of cannabis is surprising though.  Given previous estimates from An Garda Síochána’s state of the art Drug Pricing Algorithm™, Mr Murphy could have been copped for €600,000 to coincide with the €20 per gram pricing they have for the majority of their seizures.[5] Mr Murphy had €587,000 subtracted when the algorithm factored in his previous employment with the Gardaí.  Very handy.

And we can’t forget the man at the helm, Drew Harris who believes the law is too soft on drugs.  This man serves as the commissioner of a police force that shares the same island as Judge Martin Nolan.  A paedophile apologist, Judge Nolan is synonymous with light and suspended sentences for the most guttural men residing in this country.  His most recent ruling on a drug case was a 3-and-a-half-year sentence for James Cullen who was convicted of holding drugs under threat. [6]  He didn’t intend to sell or consume but this still found him receiving a relatively stark sentence compared to Judge Nolan’s most recent case regarding the assault of a child. 

A court of appeal was rejected in an attempt to jail a man who assaulted his baby daughter.  The man was given a six-month prison sentence for assaulting his partner in a separate incident and those six months were more than enough punishment.  Nolan said he was satisfied that the man never intended to harm the child despite punching her while in the hands of his partner at the time. [7]  He also sentenced a man who had attacked a toddler with a blowtorch to just 20 months in prison.[8] Yet Mr James Cullen gets 3 and a half years. Though Judge Nolan’s notoriety amassed specifically over his extremely lenient stance on child pornography.

If you’ve ever come across a news story of a suspended sentence handed down to a man convicted of distributing child pornography, you can bet it was Nolan’s call.  If you’ve ever come across a story of a judge finding it “unjust” to imprison a man found guilty of viewing child porn, you can bet it was Nolan’s sympathy.[9] Yet, drug users of Ireland are considered the worst, leading to lives irreversibly destroyed over drug convictions.  Victims of child abuse won’t be able to find any solace in the work of Drew Harris either, as the Gardaí “failed” a child abuse victim due to an insufficient investigation with the Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commission stating the failure to conduct an investigation had the effect of “leaving him to remain a risk to children”.[10]  If Mr Harris genuinely believes the state is being too soft on drugs, what in god’s name must he think of the state’s tackling of child abuse!?

As for now, we can only watch on as Germany is the latest country to deliberate on the legalisation of cannabis and unlike those that came before, Germany will have a far greater reach in demonstrating the benefits of cannabis reform in the E.U, hopefully influencing further members to follow in their footsteps.


[1] https://connachttribune.ie/galways-garda-chief-makes-war-on-drugs-his-top-focus-for-year-ahead/

[2] https://data.oireachtas.ie/ie/oireachtas/act/2022/7/eng/enacted/a0722.pdf

[3] https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/politics/arid-40762074.html

[4] https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/munster/arid-40768398.html

[5] https://twitter.com/rtenews/status/1444996286000816132?lang=en

[6] https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/courts/criminal-court/man-who-says-he-held-46k-of-drugs-due-to-threat-jailed-1.4883062

[7] https://www.independent.ie/regionals/dublin/fingal/court-of-appeal-rejects-states-attempt-to-jail-man-who-assaulted-his-baby-daughter-41303777.html

[8] https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/courts/circuit-court/man-jailed-for-burning-toddler-s-face-with-mini-blowtorch-1.4568525

[9] https://gript.ie/judge-martin-nolan-disgraces-himself-again/

[10] https://www.gardaombudsman.ie/news-room/archive/gsoc-publishes-its-2021-annual-report-gsoc-in-transition/

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