A CASTLEBAR woman was sentenced to 200 hours community service after she was convicted of possession and the sale and supply of cannabis worth €146.
Fiona Naughton (26) of 1, Hazel Grove, Castlebar, pleaded guilty to the two offences after gardaí found the drugs when she was stopped and searched at the New Cemetery, Castlebar, on June 6, 2017 at 8.10am. A subsequent search of her home discovered more drugs.
The case came before Judge Fiona Lydon at last week’s sitting of Castlebar District Court for finalisation after facts in the case had been previously heard.
Last year Ms Naughton, who is transgender and was previously known as Patrick, applied to have the charges struck out after the summonses issued against her were in her former name.
Her solicitor, Ms Nicola Daly, claimed that as she had legally changed her name and gender to female in 2016, her client was prejudiced by the gardaí. She opposed an application by An Garda Síochána to amend the summonses, saying that any attempt would compromise her constitutional and human rights under the Gender Recognition Act.
However, Judge Lydon ruled that the summonses were properly before the court after gardaí gave evidence that Ms Naughton gave her name to gardaí as Patrick and signed her name using her former name.
First case in Ireland
It is understood to have been the first case in Ireland where an application to strike out a summons was made based on someone’s gender. Ms Daly said her client had suffered ‘gender motivated assault’ since the proceedings began, and has been under ‘huge stress and anxiety’ throughout the case due to its high profile nature.
The court heard that on the morning Ms Naughton was stopped by gardaí, they found ‘five wraps of tin foil’, some ‘plastic wrapped plant material’ and ‘two rolled cigarettes’, which they suspected contained cannabis. The defendant admitted to the gardaí that the drugs were hers and that she was ‘on the way to Lough Lannagh’ to sell it.
The gardaí then obtained and executed a search warrant at 1, Hazel Grove, Castlebar where a further ‘five deals of cannabis’ was discovered in the drawer. A total of 7.3 grams worth of cannabis was found, worth an estimated €146. She has 17 previous convictions but this was the first for drug offences.
An updated probation report was sought and at last week’s sittings, the probation officer Ms Miriam Tallon, said she was satisfied that Ms Naughton was no longer involved in alcohol or drugs. She has also not come to the attention of the gardaí since the incident in June 2017.
The court heard that Ms Naughton is returning to education in Galway in September and is volunteering with the Galway Arts Festival. Ms Daly said she is no longer participating with the same crowd and was only an occasional user of cannabis, and took it to deal with stress and anxiety which she said are now no longer a factor. She added that her client found the proceedings very difficult on a personal level.
Judge Lydon said that after considering all matters including Ms Naughton’s previous convictions, the probation report and her early plea, she would sentence her to 200 hours community service in lieu of three months imprisonment.