A Co Down woman who acted as a drugs mule has walked free from court in Dublin after a judge said she had been "unlucky" in life.
Josephine Hoey (38), from Banbridge, was given a four-year suspended sentence after she was found in possession of heroin worth €37,000 (£32,600).
She pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possessing the drugs for sale or supply at Clonshaugh Woods apartment complex last September 19.
Passing sentence, Judge Martin Nolan said Hoey had been transporting drugs from Dublin to Northern Ireland in a bid to pay off a debt. Judge Nolan said Hoey had rendered herself vulnerable by taking drugs.
He said her teenage son had been threatened and she had found herself under considerable pressure to transport the drugs.
"She has been quite unlucky in the way her life has treated her," said the judge after he asked counsel for Hoey his opinion as to her moral culpability.
"If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas," replied Pieter Le Vert for the defence.
Mr Le Vert said that given the "almost unfathomable" struggles she had gone through from an early age, it was not surprising that she had serious problems which led her into addiction.
The court heard that two cars were stopped on the night in question after Garda officers noticed they were parked in a suspicious manner.
Hoey was the passenger in one of the vehicles and officers found tinfoil on the floor of the car which they thought was going to be used for smoking heroin.
She handed police a package from her handbag containing over 260g of heroin, valued at €140 (£123) per gramme.
Hoey and the driver of the car, who is also before the courts, were arrested and gardai found a further quantity of heroin on her person. The total value of the drugs seized was just over €37,300.
Mr Le Vert said Hoey had been a passenger in a car, along with a dog, in the mistaken belief that their presence would provide some sort of cover for the transportation of drugs.
Hoey told police that her role was as "drugs mule" to bring drugs back over the border in order to clear her own debt of about £1,800 for her heroin addiction.
She said she was under duress and that threats had been made against her 15-year-old son.
"They know I don't give a f*** about my own life so they bring up my son. What if he had an accident on his way home from school, how would you know it was an accident?" she told gardai.
Hoey has three previous convictions for theft in Northern Ireland, none of which carried custodial sentences.
Mr Le Vert said she was assaulted repeatedly by a family member at a very early age and also suffered an extremely serious attack at the age of 14.
"She has had mental health difficulties from then on," he said, which included constant cleaning, numerous hospitalisations and incidents of self-harm.
Hoey thanked Mr Le Vert tearfully as she left the court and promised the judge she was going to work on her mental health and never take drugs again.
"It's nice to be a hero for a day," Judge Nolan remarked to Mr Le Vert, who replied that in the nature of his job, it would only be for one day.