The owner of an east Belfast fitness outlet who supplied anabolic steroids to clients was spared jail yesterday.
Hugh McQuade received a 16-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, after he admitted supplying a variety of anabolic steroids to customers over an eight-month period.
The 50-year-old owner of HM Sports on the Castlereagh Road also admitted possessing criminal property amounting to just over £128,000 following a police search of his business premises in February 2018.
The defendant, from Global Crescent, appeared via videolink from his solicitor's office at Belfast Crown Court, where he was arraigned and sentenced on the same day.
McQuade's business was searched on February 19, 2018, with police seizing cash, a phone and other equipment, including an iPad.
These devices contained evidence that McQuade had been supplying anabolic steroids on a regular basis to his customers between June 2017 and February 2018.
Judge David McFarland said that while there was a demand for anabolic steroids for body-building and to assist in the recovery of injury, they were controlled Class C drugs that were regulated "for a purpose".
This purpose, the judge explained, was "to provide a degree of protection to the public, given the harmful side-effects that arise from taking these drugs, except under medical supervision and for a therapeutic purpose".
The Belfast Recorder said there was no evidence that McQuade was stockpiling steroids and that the supply was "likely to reflect consumer-based demand".
Turning to the £112,030 and €1,850 seized from the premises, Judge McFarland said the cash reflected profits from the sale of the steroids which will be the basis of a separate Proceeds of Crime investigation.
Judge McFarland cited the length of time and the quantity of the supply as aggravating factors, with the mitigating factors including a guilty plea at the first opportunity and a lack of relevant criminal record.
The judge said he also noted the delay in the case, McQuade's settled family life and work history - as well as the impact the Proceeds of Crime investigation was going to have on his business.
McQuade was handed a suspended sentence and warned that if he committed any further offences in the next two years, he could be jailed.