Judge issues warning as pair jailed for cocaine possession
Two men who were caught by police exchanging a package containing five kilos of high-purity cocaine were jailed yesterday.
Issuing a warning that anyone involved in supplying Class A drugs could expect a lengthy spell in prison, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC spoke of the "undoubted damage and misery" that would have been caused had the cocaine made its way onto the street.
Anthony McGuigan - who started using drugs aged 10 - and former soldier Trevor George Alexander Lowry (37) were both handed a sentence of seven-and-a-half years after they admitted possessing cocaine with intent to supply.
Judge Miller told the pair their sentences would be divided evenly between custody and licence after they were "caught red-handed" with the drugs package at a layby on the Templepatrick Road in Antrim on May 19 last year.
They were seen by police handing over a package, and when officers searched both them and their cars, a package containing five blocks of cocaine was found in one of the vehicles, along with 500 Pregabalin tablets.
While McGuigan, a 29-year-old father of one from Cunningham Way in Antrim, initially claimed he thought the package contained cannabis, Lowry, from Beech Drive in Carrick, said it was his belief it contained car parts.
The pair subsequently admitted possessing the Class A drug with intent to supply, while Lowry faced an additional two drugs charges - namely possessing cocaine for his personal use, and possessing a medical product with intent to supply.
The court heard the latter charge was linked to the Pregabalin tablets, and that Lowry had a painkiller addiction linked to a spinal injury.
A lawyer for McGuigan, said his client "has had trouble with drug addiction for a majority of his adult life."
Lowry's lawyer said a spinal injury caused him "great pain" which in turn led to drugs use, but he is now drugs-free.
McGuigan has 45 previous convictions, father-of-one Lowry has 80. Judge Miller warned anyone involved in supplying Class A drugs "must expect the most severe of sentences".
Detective Inspector Andrew Hamlin, from PSNI’s Criminal Investigation Branch, said: “These two men who were involved in the large scale distribution of cocaine as part of organised crime gang and now face a lengthy time behind bars. This was the result of a substantial proactive policing operation led by PSNI detectives against the supply of drugs within Northern Ireland.
“They were arrested after we carried out a search of a vehicle under the Misuse of Drugs Act in Ballyclare on 19 May 2017. A quantity of Class A drugs (Cocaine) worth an estimated street value of between £800,000 and £1,200,000 was seized along with a quantity of Pregabalin tablets. Pregabalin, also known as Lyrica, is a prescription drug.
"As has been widely reported on numerous occasions Lyrica has been linked to a large number of deaths in Northern Ireland in the last 3 years.
“This is further proof of our determination to ensure we bring those involved in organised criminality before the courts.
“Cocaine powder sold by drug dealers is usually mixed with other unknown stimulants such as caffeine, which increases the risk of addiction. It can also be mixed with other unknown psychoactive ingredients. You never know exactly what you are taking or how it will affect you.”