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Celebrity chef Eddie Attwell given suspended sentence after being caught in possession of drugs in Belfast

By Nevin Farrell

A Northern Ireland chef who appeared in the BBC's Great British Menu last year has been given a suspended jail term for possessing cocaine, LSD and cannabis.

Eddie Attwell (30), of Belfast Road, Antrim, appeared at Antrim Magistrates Court yesterday for sentencing on two counts of possessing class A drugs and one charge of possessing class B drugs.

Head chef at St Kyrans Country House Hotel in Virginia, Co Cavan, he previously worked at Ardtara Country House in Co Londonderry.

Attwell, who had a previous criminal record, was detected with the drugs in his car after being stopped at a police checkpoint at Dundrod Road, near Antrim town, on February 22 last year.

A defence lawyer said Attwell had been taking drugs to cope with the pressures of being a chef, but that his employer was supporting him in getting counselling, which had seen him free of class A substances for four months.

A prosecutor said Attwell was driving a car that was stopped at 12.30am in which co-accused, Janine Branagh (28), of Coolnasilla Park West, Belfast, was a front seat passenger.

He said police smelled cannabis and subsequently searched the vehicle. Attwell told officers there were drugs in the back of the car.

The defence lawyer said full admissions were made concerning the drugs, and those found included a small amount of cocaine, five squares of LSD worth £5, and two ounces of cannabis for personal use.

The lawyer said Attwell was employed as a chef in Cavan and had been working long hours that week, adding the drugs were "a coping mechanism for stress" connected with the "pressurised environment" in which he worked, but that Attwell's employer was supporting him and the defendant was getting weekly counselling.

The defence lawyer said Branagh had a previously clear record and she was currently setting up an online business.

Imposing two-month jail terms on each defendant, suspended for a year, District Judge Oonagh Mullan said they were both "educated people".

She warned them that if drugs were a "lifestyle choice", they would have to "face the consequences".

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