On-site drug testing at Oxegen

ON-the-spot testing for illegal drugs is to be used again at the forthcoming Oxegen concert.

An instant drug detection system was deployed for the first time on a pilot-basis at last year's concert outside Naas, which attracted 80,000 revellers on each of the three days of the event.

Presumptive drug testing, as it is known, was used to secure a raft of convictions for possessing relatively small amounts of cannabis, resin, ecstasy, cannabis herb, cocaine, amphetamines and BZP (which was a legal drug until fairly recently).

Garda Inspector Patsy Glennon said the system is flexible, used on-site and does not require a report on the substance found from the State's Forensic Science Laboratory.

"It was set up for the first time last year at the Oxegen event and was very successful in detecting small amounts of drugs. It cuts down on the amount of painstaking examination and certification normally required and so saves time, money and effort," Inspector Glennon said.

The system is used where people are suspected of having small amounts of illicit drugs – generally with a street value of less than n100.

He also said it can be used to unearth cases where people have been sold mere rat poison or liver salts powder instead of actual drugs. "Obviously people are not porsecuted in cases like these where they have been duped," said Insp. Glennon.

About 170 people from all over Ireland, mainly Dublin, were listed to appear at a Naas District court sitting last week.

Some n110,000 was "pledged" to the court poor box by those whose cases were heard and about n30,000 of this was handed in and receipted by the court office that day (Wednesday).

The vast majority of the cases were disposed of Judge Des Zaidan on the basis of a n1,000 voluntary donation to the court box which dispenses the money to a variety of charitable, voluntary and sports groups around County Kildare and neighbouring counties.

This option was available to those without previous drugs offences and larger amounts were paid over for bigger quantities of narcotics.

It means that they will not have a conviction recorded against them and will therefore be permitted into certain occupations and to travel to the USA and Australia.

Most of those before the court were males aged in their mid-twenties and a small number of them were detected at the ACDC concert, also hosted at Punchestown racecourse.

Some had as little as n2 worth of cannabis or a single 'joint', while others were found to have cocaine with a street value of n80.

Many were students or unemployed and other occupations, included a student of philosophy, a stonemason, a laboratory technician, an aircraft engineer and a computer science graduate.

Revellers with previous drugs offences had cases adjourned and those who did not make it to Naas without explanation had warrants issued for their respective arrests. Another is a promising rugby player who hails from Castlebar.

“You are contributing to the criminal drugs trade by buying drugs and most young people start by experimenting with cannabis and wind up engaging in crime to pay for their drug habit with consequent suffering for society. Cocaine is a highly addictive drug and with any drug, you don’t know what you are buying. If you continue to use drugs you might as well kiss your life goodbye,” Judge Desmond Zaidan told the packed courtroom.

“People like this,” he said, addressing the defendants “give music festivals a bad name.”


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