23 May 2022

Man found dead beside his friend in a Derry flat after a weekend-long drug and alcohol binge, court told

“It was a tragic example of how people who take these drugs either end up in prison or end up dead."

Derry courthouse

Derry courthouse at Bishop Street.

A former cocaine addict whose close friend died beside him as they both engaged in a weekend-long binge has been sentenced at Derry Crown Court for drugs offences.

Stephen Jones, 37, from Sackville Court, pleaded guilty to possessing cocaine with intent to supply the drug and also pleaded guilty to four charges of being concerned in offering to supply the drug.

He committed the offences between November 10 and November 13 of 2015.

A barrister for the Public Prosecution Service told Judge Philip Babington that on November 10, 2015, Jones made a 999 call to request an ambulance for his friend, Edmund Deehan, who was found unresponsive by Jones during the weekend binge in a flat at Duddy's Court.

"When the ambulance service arrived Mr. Deehan was dead,” the barrister said.

“The address did not belong to the defendant nor to Mr. Deehan but the defendant stated that himself and Mr Deehan had been drinking and taking cocaine there all weekend.

“It is not suggested that the defendant was responsible for the death of Mr. Deehan", the barrister added.

"The defendant showed the police small bags of cocaine hidden behind picture frames in the living room.“In the kitchen the police recovered three bags of cocaine with a total weight of 52.13 grams valued at between £2,000 and £3,120 from beneath the kitchen sink.

"These had fingerprints to link the defendant to them and the police also recovered a set of scales in the kitchen.

“The defendant's mobile 'phone was seized and he was found to have a large amount of cash on his person, counted as £1,600.

“From within the cover of the 'phone the police recovered a list of names and the prosecution would say this was a dealer's list and shows debts relating to ten names", the prosecutor added.

The barrister said when the mobile 'phone was examined it contained text messages to and from the ten people on the list and it proved Jones was involved in supplying cocaine.

When interviewed Jones told the police he and Mr. Deehan had been 'drinking and taking lines of cocaine all week-end'.

He also told the police that the £1,600 found on him was money he'd saved up for his daughters' Christmas presents and for his son's christening, but the prosecutor said she rejected that excuse and believed the money was as a result of Jones's drugs dealings.

Defence barrister Stephen Mooney said while a custodial sentence would normally be imposed for such offending, he believed there were exceptional circumstances to the case.

These included, he said, the impact Mr. Deehan's death had on his family and on the defendant.

"He is absolutely devastated by the death of his close friend.

“It was a tragic example of how people who take these drugs either end up in prison or end up dead.

“He throws himself at the mercy of the court because he realises he is luckier than Mr. Deehan.

“He knows it could so easily have been his body found and that he will live with that for the rest of his life," Mr. Mooney said.

The defence barrister said even thought Jones 'manned up and made admissions immediately after his arrest', it had taken over four years for the case to finally come to court in terms of sentencing.

He said during that period Jones had not re-offended in any way and when interviewed for the final time he told the police, 'I just want to put it behind me'.

Mr. Mooney said the delay in the case was not the fault of Jones.

Judge Babington said it was obviously a drugs den where the offending took place and he accepted that Jones was not responsible for his friend's death.

"Although you were not responsible for that I accept you feel awful about it.

“What happened that week-end brings home graphically the dangers of taking drugs which in this case resulted in a person's death.

“Having read the papers you no doubt were persuaded or coerced by others further up the chain because of your drugs debt to deal," he said.

Judge Babington then imposed an Enhanced Combination Order under which Jones will complete sixty hours of community service and be on probation for two years.

He also ordered that the £1,600 found on Jones should be shared equally between four local charities.

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