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Ireland: Court declares inadmissible police entrapment complaint

A convicted drug dealer who alleged that he was a victim of police entrapment, has had a complaint against Ireland rejected by human rights judges.

In its decision in the case of Mills v. Ireland (application no. 50468/16), the European Court of Human Rights has unanimously declared the application inadmissible. The decision is final.

The applicant, Robert Mills, is an Irish national, who was born in 1990 and lives in Dublin.

In June 2013, Mills was arrested following a drugs test purchase exercise conducted in Dublin to identify individuals engaged in the sale and supply of illicit drugs.

The exercise began on 28 March 2013, when two officers of the National Drug Unit, working undercover, randomly approached two young men and asked if there was “any weed around”.

One of the young men made a telephone call, and a few minutes later a car arrived in which Mills was a passenger. He sold one of the officers a 25-euro sachet of cannabis. At the officer’s request, Mills gave him a mobile phone number for future contact. On the following day, the officer contacted him by telephone.

Shortly afterwards they met and Mills sold him another sachet of the drug. He advised the officer to buy a larger quantity the next time.

The third and final purchase took place a few days later, following the same pattern and involving 50 euros’ worth of the drug.

Following his arrest and questioning by the police, Mills was charged under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

His counsel applied to have the police evidence excluded on the ground that the applicant had been entrapped by the undercover officers.

Following a legal argument on the admissibility of the evidence heard over two days in the absence of the jury (voir dire) during which the police witnesses were cross-examined the trial judge refused to exclude the evidence.

Mills then changed his plea to guilty and he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment on each count, suspended for two years.

in its decision, the court concluded that the role of the police in the case had been essentially passive and that their conduct had not crossed the line to become entrapment or incitement to commit an offence.

Moreover, the course of the domestic proceedings had demonstrated that, had Mills succeeded in demonstrating that he had been entrapped, the evidence against him would have been deemed inadmissible.

At the same time, the court underlined that – as highlighted by the Irish courts in Mills’ case –  there was a need for some sort of formal procedure in domestic law regulating undercover operations by the police.

The concerned the applicant’s complaint that his conviction for selling drugs was unfair as it was based on evidence obtained by police entrapment.

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