A former cocaine addict whose close friend died beside him as they both engaged in a weekend long cocaine and alcohol binge, was yesterday sentenced at the Crown Court in Londonderry for drugs offences.
Stephen Jones (37), from Sackville Court, pleaded guilty to possessing cocaine with intent to supply the drug and also pleaded guilty to four charges of being concerned in offering to supply the drug. He committed the offences between November 10 and November 13, 2015.
A barrister for the Public Prosecution Service told Judge Philip Babington that on November 10, 2015, Jones made a 999 call to request an ambulance for his friend Edmund Deehan, who was found unresponsive by Jones during the weekend binge in a flat at Duddy's Court.
"When the Ambulance Service arrived Mr Deehan was dead. The address did not belong to the defendant nor to Mr Deehan but the defendant stated that himself and Mr Deehan had been drinking and taking cocaine there all weekend. It is not suggested that the defendant was responsible for the death of Mr Deehan," the barrister said.
"The defendant showed the police small bags of cocaine hidden behind picture frames in the living room. In the kitchen police recovered three bags of cocaine with a total weight of 52.13g valued at between £2,000 and £3,120 from beneath the kitchen sink. These had fingerprints to link the defendant to them and the police also recovered a set of scales in the kitchen.
"The defendant's mobile phone was seized and he was found to have a large amount of cash on his person, counted as £1,600. From within the cover of the phone the police recovered a list of names and the prosecution would say this was a dealer's list and shows debts relating to 10 names," the prosecutor added.
The barrister said when the phone was examined it contained text messages to and from the 10 people on the list and it proved Jones was involved in supplying cocaine. When interviewed Jones told police he and Mr Deehan had been "drinking and taking cocaine all weekend".
He also told the police the £1,600 found on him was money he'd saved up for his daughters' Christmas presents and his son's christening, but the prosecutor said she rejected that excuse and believed the money was as a result of Jones' drugs dealings.
Defence barrister Stephen Mooney said while a custodial sentence would normally be imposed, he believed there were exceptional circumstances. These included, he said, the impact Mr Deehan's death had on his family and on the defendant.
"He is absolutely devastated by the death of his close friend," Mr Mooney said "He throws himself at the mercy of the court because he realises he is luckier than Mr Deehan. He knows it could so easily have been his body found and he will live with that for the rest of his life."
The defence barrister said even though Jones "manned up and made admissions immediately", it had taken over four years for the case to finally come to court in terms of sentencing. He said during that period Jones had not reoffended and when interviewed for the final time he told the police: "I just want to put it behind me." Mr Mooney said the delay was not Jones' fault.
Judge Babington said it was obviously a drugs den where the offending took place and he accepted that Jones was not responsible for his friend's death.
"Although you were not responsible for that I accept you feel awful about it," he said.
"What happened that weekend brings home graphically the dangers of taking drugs which in this case resulted in a person's death. Having read the papers you no doubt were persuaded or coerced by others further up the chain because of your drugs debt to deal," he said.
Judge Babington then imposed an Enhanced Combination Order under which Jones will complete 60 hours of community service and be on probation for two years. He also ordered that the £1,600 be shared equally between four local charities.