Couple remanded in custody after £320,000 cannabis find

Lisburn Court.
Lisburn Court.

A mother-of-three and her partner have been remanded into custody accused of having more than £300,000 of cannabis.

Deborah Mulholland (29) and 28-year-old Declan Sullivan held hands as they appeared together in the dock at Lisburn Magistrates Court on Saturday where they were each charged with possessing class B cannabis and having herbal cannabis and cannabis resin with intent to supply on 11 April this year.

A detective constable told the court he believed he could connect the couple to the charges and revealed how the “intelligence led operation” uncovered the two types of cannabis in a shed at the rear of Mulholland’s home at Cloona Manor in the Dunmurry area of west Belfast.

He said that inside the padlocked shed, the key to which was found in the kitchen, officers found a large hold-all bag which was filled with “nine bars” of cannabis resin which were “vacuum packed and quite professionally stamped” while the herbal cannabis was uncovered in a black bin bag inside a box.

In total the estimated street value was “more than £320,000,” claimed the officer adding that although Sullivan had a different address at Glenwood Gardens, also in Dunmurry, he told police he stayed with Mulholland and their three children most of the week.

During police interviews, both Mulholland and Sullivan claimed they knew nothing about the drugs in the shed which is beside the back door and that they only went into it to retrieve kids bicycles and the like.

The officer said police were objecting to bail on the grounds that the find represented a “considerable financial loss” so they would be likely to commit further offences “to recoup the loss”.

He told the court there were also “grave concerns” for the couples’ safety as “community tensions would be running high specifically with regard to this type of offence”.

Under cross examination from the couples’ solicitor, the officer agreed that neither had any convictions for drug offences and that an address well outside of Belfast had been offered.

The solicitor submitted that with the case likely to hang on forensic and finger print examinations of the packaging, “realistically we are looking at several months down the line” before those findings are known and that in the meantime, three children would be without both parents.

He argued that “it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that more sinister or cunning individuals” could have used the shed to store the drugs without either Mulholland or Sullivan knowing about it.

Refusing the bail application however on the grounds of the risk of further offences being committed, District Judge Rosemary Watters said “I find it hard to believe that neither of them didn’t know that such a large amount of drugs was hidden in such a small shed”.

“I suppose the reality is that these drugs are worth a lot of money and whoever owns them would not have put them in a place without knowing they were safe in some way or without knowing that the owners or occupiers were prepared to look after them - I think that’s the real world in practical terms,” said the judge.

Remanding the couple into custody, she ordered them to appear to appear again via videolink on April 28.

Speaking immediately after the search, Inspector Peter Brannigan said: “Drugs are clearly an issue of concern to local communities and officers have been working closely with residents in this area to tackle the issue of drug supply and distribution.

“This planned search and the discovery of a substantial quantity of cannabis illustrates our commitment to deal with drugs in this area.”