Northern Ireland

Barry James Stapleton jailed for drugs 'housesitting'

A Dublin man who acted as a housesitter at a Belfast apartment to which drugs were being delivered from overseas has been given a two-year jail sentence.

Barry James Stapleton, 29, will spend a year in custody with a further year on licence upon his release.

Stapleton, from The Court in the Golden Ridge area of Rush in Dublin, pleaded guilty to possessing a Class B drug with intent to supply on 13 June, 2012.

He also admitted importing a controlled drug between 1 June and 19 June, 2012.

Crown counsel told Belfast Crown Court that on 11 June last year, the UK Border Agency reported a suspicious package that was addressed to an apartment at the Obel Tower.

Rented apartment

The package was then delivered to the address by an undercover police officer and was signed for by Stapleton.

The apartment was then searched and a quality of the banned substance Alpha-PVP, which was a 'legal high' before being reclassified as a Class B drug, was found.

Other drugs paraphernalia including a mixing agent, a mixing machine, scales and gloves were also discovered during the search. In total, around 7kg of Alpha-PVP was recovered from the apartment.

The prosecution said that other packages heading to the same address, containing a further 16.34kg of the drug, were intercepted.

These packages were sent to Belfast from Spain and Singapore. The estimated street value of the drugs haul amounted to between £104,000 and £400,000.

The prosecutor told the judge that there was no-one living at the rented apartment, which was being used "for the purposes of receiving and distributing these drugs".

He added that it was accepted by the Crown that Stapleton's role in the drugs operation was one of a "trusted housesitter".

A defence barrister said her client had admitted signing for the drugs, adding that at the time he was "in the midst of a severe drugs problem" that he was now addressing.

Telling Stapleton he must have realised he was committing a serious offence, the judge said: "I accept you may not have set this up and you were fairly far down the chain, but you were an integral part of the chain and you were trusted and you were mixing with others who were also playing their part."