A Co Down man who gave his brother’s details to police investigating a drugs offence has been jailed for three months.
Sentencing Conor McGrath, Judge Gordon Kerr QC told the 24-year-old that he was sending him to prison to “mark the seriousness of this type of behaviour.”
McGrath, from The Green in Holywood, pleaded guilty to a charge of perverting the course of justice and possessing a Class B drug. Judge Kerr issued the prison sentence for the former charge, and fined him £150 for the drugs offence.
Prosector John O’Neill told Belfast Crown Court that police searched a property in Belfast on November 14, 2013 and found a small amount of herbal cannabis on the kitchen table.
He said: “A male occupant accepted ownership. Four days later police spoke to this male and an adult caution was administered to a Ryan McGrath who he was purporting to be.”
A year later during another PSNI investigation, Conor McGrath was spoken to by a police officer about an “unrelated matter”.
Mr O’Neill added: “The constable was present at the search the year before and recognised the male he was speaking to from that search. He made inquiries and he was informed that the adult caution was issued to somebody by the name of Ryan McGrath.
“Ryan McGrath had, in fact, not been cautioned. He was the younger brother of Conor McGrath.
“Conor McGrath was interviewed on December 15, 2014 in relation to perverting the course of justice in relation to a drugs offence and made full admissions and accepted he had signed the caution in Ryan’s name.
“During police interviews, he told officers: ‘I didn’t understand the seriouness at the time’.”
Defence solicitor Tony Caher said that at the time of the offence, McGrath had become involved with a group of friends who were involved in drug activities and who had come to the attention of the police.
Mr Caher said: “He has now changed his lifestyle completely, is no longer taking drugs, he is no longer with that group and has removed himself from criminal activity and lives at home with his parents in Holywood.
“He also accepts that this is a very serious offence. This was not a deliberate offence. He panicked when he gave his younger brother’s name. He accepts he put his brother in a difficult position.
“When his brother Ryan found out what he had done, he was not pleased with him and didn’t speak to him for a while.”
Passing sentence, Judge Kerr spoke of the potential impact McGrath’s actions could have had on his brother – particularly when it came to potential employment.