A JUDGE has told a Lisnaskea man, caught distilling a significant amount of poteen, he is “extremely fortunate” not to be going to prison.
Patrick Anthony McCaffrey of Lisnaskea Road, admitted fraudulently evading of duty chargeable on alcoholic spirits as well as having equipment, namely a copper tank, pipework and a generator as ‘a still’ for use in the course of fraud.
Dungannon Crown Court heard HMRC officers arrived at his home on June 26 2016, with a warrant to conduct a search.
McCaffrey was noted to be entirely co-operative from the outset and accepted he had been illegally brewing alcohol.
Whilst searching three outbuildings, officers recovered a number of adapted stills, 375kgs of sugar, 51kgs of yeast, and numerous empty vodka bottles.
Around 2500 litres of alcohol was found in various stages of fermentation.
The sum of £2400 cash was also seized
During interview, McCaffrey admitted his had been brewing poteen since the previous Christmas, which he sold for around £3 a bottle. He also admitted knowing his actions were unlawful, but he enjoyed brewing.
HMRC calculated the loss of revenue as £19,371, and McCaffery was charged.
A defence barrister said his client paid this in full within weeks of being issued with a demand. This had been with the assistance of his daughter and other family members.
It was explained McCaffrey had been a care-worker for some 26 years but had to retire on the grounds of ill health. He has a completely clear record and had never been before the courts in his life.
McCaffrey, said the defence had started distilling alcohol as “a hobby, but it spiralled out of control”.
Judge Stephen Fowler accepted action had been taken at once to re-pay the lost revenue, but pointed out, “Had the defendant not done so, HMRC would have forced the sale of his home if necessary.”
The judge said “This was a relatively sophisticated operation carried out over a significant period of time. There are particular concerns to the unregulated manufacture of alcohol, absent of necessary checks, which poses a health risk.”
Describing the custody threshold as passed, Judge Fowler however reflected on McCaffrey’s full co-operation, repayment of lost revenue and the manner in which he accepted full responsibility.
A sentence of 12 months imprisonment was imposed, but this was suspended for two years.
Judge Fowler warned, “The defendant should count himself extremely fortunate. This is not only a serious issue as to loss of revenue, but also the risk to public health.”
He concluded, “I am however satisfied the defendant is not part and parcel of bigger organised crime.”
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition