Man admits drugs charges but escapes jail to care for autistic son

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A Belfast father of five who was caught with almost six kilos of cannabis resin concealed under his bed has been spared jail.

Gary McKee admitted three charges arising from the search of his then dockside apartment in September 2015.

Prosecuting barrister Gareth Purvis said that when McKee’s former Pilot Street premises was searched under the Misuse of Drugs Act, a number of items were seized – including six blocks of cannabis resin, a small bag of amphetamines and strip of five 2mg Diazepam tablets.

The 47-year-old, from Harbour View, appeared at Belfast Crown Court, where he was handed a two-year sentence which was suspended for two years.

Mr Purvis said the illegal substances and other drugs paraphernalia were found in the apartment on September 11, 2015. In total, six blocks of cannabis resin which had been shrink-wrapped and packaged into 10 slabs were found under a bed.

The resin, which weighed just under six kilos, was valued at around £7,800, while .83 grams of amphetamine (speed) was also found.

Mr Purvis said that when McKee’s phone was seized and examined, there was evidence “which indicated dealing in relation to the amphetamine”.

The prosecutor also told the court that the weight, packaging and value of the blocks of cannabis indicated “there was an intention to supply”.

Defence barrister Stephen Toal described his client as a “custodian for criminal elements” and said he “willingly agreed” to keep the drugs for £300.

McKee’s life at the time, the barrister said, was a “mess”, and included dealing with his son getting shot in the legs after getting into a fist fight with “the wrong person”.

It also emerged that in a similar set of circumstances, McKee himself was also the victim of a paramilitary shooting in Ardoyne in 1987, and he hasn’t worked since. Other factors in McKee’s life include caring for his autistic son.

Passing sentence, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC said that due to McKee’s personal circumstances, including looking after his autistic son, he was being handed a suspended sentence.

He also warned McKee that if he committed any further offences within the next two years, he would be sent to jail.