Delay in prison drugs case ‘absolutely inexcusable’

Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66
Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66

A judge has said the delay in the case of a woman who admitted taking drugs into a prison is ‘absolutely inexcusable.’

Judge Philip Babington made the comment as 34-year-old Lesley Marie McLeod appeared before Derry Crown Court.

The offences were committed in 2012, but McLeod was not arraigned until June this year, when she entered a guilty plea.

Derry Crown Court heard the delay was caused by forensic analysis of the drugs.

McLeod, with an address in Thalia Street, Belfast, pleaded guilty to supplying Cannabis and Testosterone on June 13, 2012.

She also admitted simple possession of Cannabis.

The defendant supplied the drugs to a life sentence prisoner, Victor Kennedy, in Magilligan Prison.

Kennedy was jailed for life for the murder of a Limavady school teacher, Michael McGinnis, in 2007.

The court heard that McLeod visited Kennedy in prison and CCTV operators saw her pass something to him.

Kennedy was searched and two articles wrapped in cling film were found.

McLeod was also searched and officers found a small quantity of Cannabis in a tobacco pouch.

The items seized from Kennedy were found to be 26 grams of Cannabis and a bottle containing ten millilitres of Testosterone.

During police interview, McLeod made no comment however, she handed police a statement in which she denied having any drugs.

The 34-year-old was interviewed a second time some months later and she gave police a second statement.

She claimed that she had been going through a bad time and had started communicating with Kennedy and visiting him in prison.

McLeod said Kennedy was friendly to start with, but became aggressive and started to threaten her.

She claimed he demanded she brought drugs in and he had friends who ‘could hurt her.’

Defence counsel, Eoghan Devlin, said his client has had a number of difficulties in her life and is ‘extremely vulnerable.’

He added that given McLeod’s vulnerabilities she is ‘exactly the sort of individual that Kennedy would be likely to prey upon.’

Passing sentence, Judge Babington said ‘normally people like you go straight to prison. There is a serious drug problem in our prisons and it has to be dealt with’.

However, the judge said he had to take into the account the delay in this case as it appeared that ‘someone put this file on top of a piece of furniture and left it there’.

He suspended a three month sentence for 18 months and granted a destruction order for the drugs seized.