By Jessica Magee
A man in his 70s who fled the country 18 years ago after pleading guilty to possessing over €146,000 worth of drugs has been sentenced to four years in prison.
Joseph Rogerson (73), formerly of Elmgrove, Ballybrack and lately of Tenerife, admitted possessing cocaine and heroin for sale or supply on June 12th, 2005 in his car on Rock Road, Blackrock and later at a house in Ballybrack, Co Dublin.
Rogerson had been due to face sentence in November 2006, but took a bench warrant and went to the Canary Islands, where he remained until his return to Ireland last Wednesday, March 8th.
Passing sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Thursday, Judge Martin Nolan said Rogerson has lived a “relatively blameless life” since he left this jurisdiction. Judge Nolan said Rogerson had come back to this country for his own personal reasons and had made himself known to gardaí.
“If he had faced sentence when he should have done, his sentence would have been spent at this time,” said the judge, although he added that the sentencing regime was “probably more rigorous” in 2005.
“I shouldn’t say this too loudly, but I suspect it has thawed out a little bit,” said Judge Nolan, referring to the current sentencing regime for drugs offences.
The judge said Rogerson had had a gambling debt which made him vulnerable to third parties, but said he was a “mature man and “should have known better”.
“Obviously there was pressure on Rogerson, but the pressure was self-made,” said Judge Nolan
Inspector Ger Walsh told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that in June 2005, gardaí got a warrant to search an address in Ballybrack, where they saw Rogerson leaving in a car. His car was stopped and searched on the Rock Road and gardaí found three packages containing heroin in the sun visor area of the car.
Rogerson was taken to Dun Laoghaire Garda Station where cocaine was found in one of his socks and heroin in the other sock. A further search was carried out at Rogerson’s house in Ballybrack, where drugs were found in a dressing gown pocket in a bedroom and also under the bonnet of a different car parked in the driveway.
In total, gardaí seized just over a kilo of cocaine and some heroin with a combined value of €146,552. Rogerson told gardaí he had a gambling debt and had been asked to hold onto the drugs as a way of paying off his debt.
He has 31 previous convictions, including 23 for larceny and others for assault. Aside from these drugs offences in 2005, Rogerson had not offended since 1987.
The court heard that Rogerson alerted gardaí that he would by flying into Cork Airport last week to visit a family member. Garnet Orange SC, defending, said Rogerson surrendered himself voluntarily to gardaí and knew it was time to come home and “face the music”.
Mr Orange said his client had become lonely and homesick and people he knew were getting unwell. The court heard Rogerson had a troubled youth and spent time in a residential institution.
As an adult, Rogerson received a “substantial amount” of compensation arising out of mistreatment in that institution, counsel said, but unfortunately squandered it all in gambling.
Mr Orange said Rogerson ran up a significant debt in 2004 and 2005 which somebody else bought and used this debt as leverage to compel him to hold and transport drugs.
The court heard there was nothing to suggest that Rogerson was profiting from these transactions, but rather that his debt was being incrementally reduced by holding and delivering drugs.
Mr Orange also said that before Rogerson fled the country, he got a threatening phone call from someone he didn’t know, saying “no cooperation and no naming of names”.
Inspector Walsh said he was unable to confirm this. Mr Orange said Rogerson put himself under an obligation to “more sinister individuals” and was compelled to hold drugs and become a significant cog in the operation.
Judge Nolan said it was a significant aggravating factor that Rogerson had not stayed to face his sentence, but he took into account the guilty plea, cooperation with gardaí and the fact that Rogerson is aged 73. The four-year sentence was backdated to March 8th.