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Tough Irish judge unaware he was owner of ‘legal high’ shop

By Eimear Ni Bhraonain

An Irish judge known for showing no mercy to defendants on drug charges was apparently unaware he was the landlord of a so-called “head shop” that sells legal highs.

Judge John Coughlan earned himself a name as a “jailing judge” because of his frequent refusals to grant bail.

Yesterday, the judge came to an “agreement” with the owner of the Happy Daze in Naas, Co Kildare, and the business will vacate its premises.

Judge Coughlan is a district court judge who is assigned to different areas of the country. And he said he believed the site of his former legal practice was an alternative medicine centre.

Happy Daze, directly opposite Naas Courthouse, sells herbal cigarettes and various paraphernalia and other substances that mimic the effects of illegal drugs.

However, in a statement issued by the Courts Service yesterday, Judge Coughlan said he had “no idea” of the premises' current use.

“It has been drawn to my attention that a premises I let to a commercial tenant, the site of my former legal practice, has been operated as a place of trade commonly referred to as a 'head shop',” he said.

“I had agreed to allow the premises be used as a venue for an alternative medicine centre and had no idea of its current use. The moment I realised this, I contacted my auctioneer, who reached an agreement immediately with the operators of this shop that they will vacate the premises.”

The judge had earlier told a local newspaper he had asked gardai about the business — and they had told him it was perfectly legal.

“I know the gardai are satisfied with it. I cleared it with the gardai and all that is sold and done at the shop is perfectly legal,” he told the newspaper.

The owner of Happy Daze was unavailable for comment yesterday.

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