Judge warns mother that she can’t use children as “shield” against money laundering offences

Ennis courthouse
Ennis Courthouse

A JUDGE has jailed the mother of a two-year-old boy for 18 months after telling her that she can’t use her children as a “shield” from the consequences of her money laundering.

At Ennis Circuit Court, mother of three Heather McNamara (40), of Childers Road, Cloughleigh, Ennis, pleaded guilty to money laundering connected to her jailed partner Paul Collopy’s drug dealing activity.

The father of Ms McNamara’s two-year-old son, Limerick native Paul Collopy, is currently serving a 10-year jail term for drug dealing and is due for release in 2028.

In court, Judge Francis Comerford said that Ms McNamara could not use her children “as a shield” after Ms McNamara told the court that if she was sent to jail it would result in “an awful trauma” for her young son.

Ms McNamara said that her two-year-old “is very attached to me. I have a seriously close bond and I dread to think what would happen if a got a custodial sentence. We are a close knit and they depend on me.”

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“I worry about the mental health of the kids and myself.”

Ms McNamara said that the father of her two older children, aged 17 and 21, was “brutally murdered just over a week ago and I worry for the mental health of the two older kids as well”.

Ms McNamara said that she is the sole carer for her two-year-old  son and 17-year-old girl who is doing her Leaving Cert this year. Mr Collopy has been in prison since April 2021, three months before their boy was born.

Judge Comerford imposed a 50-month prison term on Ms McNamara, suspending 32 months, meaning that Ms McNamara is to serve 18 months in prison.

Judge Comerford said that the court can’t say that because Ms McNamara has children that she is entitled to engage in crime “and she is immune from any sanctions from the courts”.

Ms McNamara has a previous conviction for money laundering in 2014 concerning a sum of €68,000 and Judge Comerford said that she has engaged  in “significant repeated wrong doing”.

The judge said that Ms McNamara engaging in crime knowing the precarious position of her two-year-old and 17-year-old daughter and this was an aggravating factor in the case.

“Ms McNamara was doing direct harm to her children by engaging in this activity,” he said.

Judge Comerford said that he was suspending 32 months due to the impact the prison term will have on Ms McNamara’s children.

Counsel for Ms McNamara, Pat Barriscale BL, said that the prison term will have “severe repercussions” for his client and Judge Comerford agreed that the warrant for Ms McNamara not to be taken into custody would not take effect until January 12 next.

The court heard that Ms McNamara doesn’t work and receives €312 per week in social welfare.

Ms McNamara pleaded guilty to a money laundering offence concerning €37,965 which was the proceeds of crime in May 2021 at two locations in Ennis.

Ms McNamara also pleaded guilty to another money laundering offence at her home at Childers Road, Cloughleigh, Ennis, concerning cash of €5,445 and a lady’s Rolex watch valued at €17,500.

Ms McNamara further pleaded guilty to the possession of €4,872 of cocaine at the same property on the same date.

Detective Sergeant Denis Stack said that as long as he has known Ms McNamara “she has always had nice cars, she has a good lifestyle”.

At the time of the December 2019 offences, Ms McNamara was driving a BMW and, in May 2021, when apprehended was driving a white Land Rover.

Mr Barriscale BL said that her client provided a £3,900 (€4,500) invoice for the Rolex watch purchased from a London jewellers.

Det Sgt Stack said that Gardaí believe that Paul Collopy was the dominant influence concerning the drugs and cash found at the McNamara home in December 2019.

Det Garda Paul Heaslip said that Gardaí believe that the owner of the €37,965 concerning the May 2021 offences was Paul Collopy.