Irish Darknet Vendor Denied a Shorter Sentence at His Appeal Hearing

Neil Mannion and Richard O’Connor were jailed in 2014 for distributing drugs via the Agora and Silk Road marketplaces. Both Irishmen cooperated with the prosecution after their arrest, revealing details about the darknet and bitcoin. For this cooperation, one of the men requested a sentence reduction. The appeal was finally heard in court and subsequently denied.

Both Mannion and O’Connor were arrested for their roles in the two-man operation. However, the two were not treated as equals in terms of sentencing. Mannion took full responsibility for the online aspect of the operation. O’Connor, however, only packaged and shipped the drugs and received a semi-fixed income in return.

During the initial hearing, Judge Martin Nolan sentenced the men according to their role in the operation. Judge Nolan sentenced Mannion to six-and-a-half years in prison for being “the brains of the operation.” O’Connor was sentenced only to three-and-a-half years. The less-harsh sentencing for O’Connor was majorly based on the fact that the man only followed Mannion’s instructions.

Mannion’s legal team filed the appeal to reduce the sentenced prison time because of what they believed to be an “unjustifiable disparity” between the men’s sentences.

“Both men pleaded guilty to possession of LSD, Amphetamine, and Cannabis Resin with the intent to sell or supply at Bank House Business Center, South Circular Road on November 5th, 2014,” a source wrote at the time of the arrest.

Police caught the men by tracking IP addresses and following Mannion’s car. Police then “...found both men on the scene with packaged drugs, packaging equipment and supplies, scales, and shipping products,” we previously reported. Also, €143,000 worth of drugs were pulled from the crime scene as noted in the appeal.

Regarding the bust of both men together:

Detective Sgt Roberts told Caroline Cummings BL from prosecution that the police placed Mannion under surveillance after they received confidential information about a computer’s IP address. They followed Mannion’s car to the business address and later obtained a search warrant. The Irish Gardaí found Mannion and O’Connor on the premises, along with a bag containing the drugs, a vacuum packing machine, weighing scales, envelopes and labels for posting.

Mannion owned the drugs and had control of the operation. But O’Connor, even playing a lesser role, was arrested with Mannion while doing the same things. They both pleaded guilty to the same crime. Mannion’s legal team argued that being “the brains of the operation” did not justify the additional three years Mannion received.

In the appeal’s dismissal hearing, Mr Justice George Birmingham said that he agreed with the sentencing judge’s remarks regarding Mannion’s role as “the brains of the operation.” Justice Birmingham similarly accepted that O’Connor’s role was of lesser severity. Having a role of lesser importance, according to Justice Birmingham, does justify a less severe sentencing.

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