Belfast Telegraph

Ex-cop caught with 100 ecstasy pills claims he found them in a hedge

By Alan Erwin

An off-duty police officer arrested for having 100 ecstasy tablets claimed he found them in a hedge, the High Court heard.

Sean Paul Race (37) said he recovered the pills after they were discarded by a drug dealer in a park in south Belfast.

Race, who has since left the PSNI to set up a charity fundraising business in the Republic, denies possessing class A drugs with intent to supply.

He is also accused of having a small amount of cannabis in his home at the time of his original detention.

The ex-policeman, who served in the force for eight years, returned to Northern Ireland to face a court summons over the offences.

He was granted bail after prosecutors failed to overturn a decision to release him from custody. A judge was told he had been stopped in the Botanic area of the city in July 2013.

Searches recovered 100 ecstasy tablets within a money bag in his trouser pocket.

In a later statement Race, with an address in Comber, Co Down, claimed he was approached by a man he knew to be a drug dealer, according to prosecution counsel.

The accused claimed that person recognised him as a police officer, threw something in a hedge and ran off.

He retrieved the item before heading to a nearby museum for a meeting, according to his statement. The prosecutor set out how Race claimed to have been subjected to continuous attempts to set him up.

She added that the man implicated was also questioned and confirmed he knew the police officer but denied any encounter or discarding drugs in Botanic Gardens. Mobile phones seized from the accused revealed contact with two others linked to drugs, it was alleged.

Race left Northern Ireland in early 2014, moving to the Dublin area, the court heard. Bail was opposed amid claims he may flee if released. Defence counsel John O'Connor said his client had worked for Unicef for a year before being involved in setting up a charity fundraising company employing around 15 people. The barrister said Race had been released without conditions and regularly returned to Belfast for family reasons.

Mr Justice Treacy was told the accused served in the PSNI from 2005 to 2013. As part of the bail application, fears were expressed at the prospect of him remaining behind bars with others he may have arrested during his police career.

"There are real concerns in relation to him and his safety," Mr O'Connor said.

"This is a man with no criminal record, a man who has given his version of events of how he came to be in possession of 100 ecstasy tablets."

Upholding the decision to grant bail for Race to live with relatives in Co Derry, Mr Justice Treacy ordered him to surrender his passport.

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