By Staff Reporter
The father of a child with a rare genetic condition grew cannabis in Donegal so that he could use it to treat his son, a court has heard.
Christopher McDaid (33), pleaded guilty at Letterkenny Circuit Criminal Court to possession of a controlled drug and cultivation of cannabis without a license at The Haw, Churchtown, Carrigans on October 23rd, 2015.
Judge Martin Nolan imposed a suspended sentence on McDaid after accepting arguments from his legal team that he was growing the cannabis because he believed it could ease the symptoms of a rare disorder his son suffers from.
The court heard that McDaid, of 41 Farmhill, Foylesprings, Derry, had carried out research into treatments for his ten-year-old son who suffers from Ataxia-Telangiectasia (AT), a rare, neurodegenerative disorder for which there is no cure for.
Two grow tents containing ten plants each were discovered in the house after gardaí obtained a search warrant.
Sgt Joe Kealy told the court that more than 80 smaller plants or cuttings were also discovered and that work was underway to increase the size of the operation. The ESB connection to the house had been bypassed and strong lights could be scene coming from the house at night.
McDaid was arrested at the house after it was put under Garda surveillance.
When interviewed, McDaid told gardaí the owner of house house lived abroad. He said the motivation behind the cannabis cultivation was medical - to help treat his son and also his father, who is seriously ill.
Barrister Seán MacAodha (BL) said McDaid, who has a degree in marine science, had carried out research into the condition his son suffers.
The growing of the plants was to help his son and was not for profit, he said.
During his research, McDaid came across the case of a family in Canada with two children who suffer from AT. When treated with cannabis oil, the girl and boy were “walking within two weeks”, Mr MacAodha said.
“This was his aim. He was doing it to help his family and they were not to be sold on the street,” he said.
Mr MacAodha said McDaid’s son was born in New York, where he and his partner had lived, but they returned home due to the cost in the US of tests the child required.
His son was diagnosed with AT in 2009.
The maximum lifespan for sufferers of AT is 25, Mr MacAodha said, but for McDaid’s son, it is likely to be closer to 18. However, the latest medical review showed he was “probably looking at less than that”.
He said McDaid had been carrying out research for years into the benefits of cannabinoids and the treatment does have a beneficial effect in terms of palliative care and the easing of symptoms.
“The difference between the family in Canada or a family in Derry or Donegal, is that the family in Canada can avail of prescriptive cannabinoids but that cannot be done here,” he said.
Sentencing McDaid, Judge Nolan said the explanation given by McDaid, that he believed “the derivatives of cannabis could help his son deal with a very serious and distressing condition”, was a credible one.
“It seems he was not in this enterprise for profit and he had no intention of the selling drugs on the market,” Judge Nolan said.
The judge said that considering all the factors and that McDaid had no previous convictions, the offence did not merit a custodial sentence.
McDaid was sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for one year.