An east Belfast man who was caught with “high purity” MDMA has been jailed by a judge who spoke of the potential dangers of drug hitting the streets.
Owen Halsall was handed a sentence of two years and eight months after MDMA powder, a form of the class A drug Ecstacy, was located during a search of his Belmont Road home.
Belfast Crown Court heard that around 1.5kgs of MDMA with a purity of 87% was found in a wardrobe, along with 257 grammes of herbal cannabis.
The 32-year-old father of one will serve half his sentence in prison, and half on licence when he is released.
Despite calls by Halsall’s barrister that he be spared a prison sentence, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC said that due to the amount and purity of the MDMA seized, a custodial sentence was “called for and justified”.
A prosecuting barrister said that on May 16 last year, police stopped a car driven by Halsall on the Castlereagh Road. Officers noted that both Halsall and his male passenger appeared nervous, and after the car was searched, police found a small amount of herbal cannabis in the glove box.
Halsall’s passenger admitted possession of the cannabis, but when Halsall’s apartment was searched later that day, officers found MDMA, herbal cannabis and other items indicative of drug dealing including a set of scales and the cutting agent Benzocaine.
The Crown prosecutor said the cannabis was estimated to be worth between £2,600 and £5,300, while the MDMA was worth between £45,000 and £60,000.
When Halsall was interviewed the day after the search, he handed police a pre-prepared statement which said the drugs found in his flat were being stored by him for others, in return for cocaine to fund his own addiction. He then answered ‘no comment’ to further questions put to him.
However, the Crown barrister rejected any suggestions made by Halsall that he was “vulnerable or being preyed upon”.
A barrister representing Halsall pointed out his client came before the court with a clear criminal record, and that since his arrest last May he has sought treatment for his drug addiction.
Revealing to the court that Halsall started using drugs following the break-down of a relationship in December 2015 when his life “started to spiral out of control”, defence counsel said at one stage he was spending up to £1,000 on his cocaine addiction.
Asking the judge to spare Halsall jail, the barrister also revealed Halsall cared for his elderly father, worked in the family business and “is a very different person to the one involved in these offences over a year ago”.
Judge Miller said that while he took into account Halsall’s personal circumstances and the steps he had made to address his addiction, he also spoke of the potential danger had the high-quality MDMA found its way on to the streets.
The judge also branded Halsall’s claim that he provided nothing more than a storage facility for the drugs as “minimising his level of culpability”.