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Footballer fined £500 after drugs seized at airport

By Nevin Farrell

An Irish League footballer caught with cocaine, magic mushrooms and cannabis at Belfast International Airport on his way home from Amsterdam has been fined £500.

Mark Clarke (27), of Springfield Road, Belfast, who started this season with Carrick Rangers, pleaded guilty to three charges at Antrim Magistrates Court yesterday.

He admitted fraudulently importing cocaine, psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and herbal cannabis after the offences were detected on November 3 last year.

Three charges of possessing the drugs were withdrawn by a prosecutor who said Clarke returned from Amsterdam with his girlfriend and he was stopped and searched.

In his holdall were found two cannabis 'space cakes' and two joints of herbal cannabis, along with a small bag containing 17.6 grammes of magic mushrooms.

Later a bag was found in his wallet containing 0.65 grammes of cocaine.

A defence lawyer said when stopped at the airport his client accepted he was in possession of the drugs and he made full admissions.

He said it was Clarke's first time in Amsterdam and the drugs were a "foolish experiment".

The lawyer said that while engaging in some of that activity might be legal in the Dutch city, his client accepted bringing the drugs home in a bag was "foolish".

The lawyer said police accepted the drugs were for Clarke's personal use.

He added it was a "one-off" and said Clarke, who formerly worked as a tiler and now as a fryer, lives at home with his mother and has a seven-year-old son.

The lawyer said Clarke paid €5 for the 'space cakes'; €20 for the mushrooms and claimed the cocaine was given to him.

District Judge Oonagh Mullan said possession of the drugs was "not acceptable".

But she said she had to give Clarke credit for his guilty plea at a very early stage.

She told the footballer she did not want to see him back before the courts again and added: "It was a foolish mistake, hopefully you have learned from it."

Clarke formerly played for Cliftonville and Glentoran and at the time of the offences was on the books of Warrenpoint Town.

After the offences in November last year he was still playing for Warrenpoint.

He signed for Carrick Rangers this season and has played for the club this term. He is listed on the club's website as a member of the first team squad.

When he first appeared in court last week on the charges Carrick Rangers FC said it had started an internal review.

"Mark Clarke has not played or trained with Carrick Rangers since suffering an injury at his place of work in September 2016," the club added.

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