Lorry driver charged over £600,000 cannabis haul granted bail
A LORRY driver charged in connection with the seizure of £600,000 worth of herbal cannabis in Belfast has been granted High Court bail.
John McFadden (45) was arrested after 32kg of drugs were recovered during a search of his vehicle in the Dargan Road area last week.
The father-of-five, from Strabane, Co Tyrone, told police he thought he was transporting tobacco for a £200 payment.
Ruling today that McFadden can be released from custody, a judge described the case as a "tragedy" for him and his family.
Lord Justice McCloskey said: "He has found himself in the middle of a drugs offence involving substantial quantities and very high monetary values indeed."
McFadden, whose address cannot be reported, faces a charge of possessing Class B drugs with intent to supply.
Prosecution barrister Conor Maguire said the plastic wrapped parcels of herbal cannabis with an estimated street value of £600,000 were inside three boxes found in his lorry on October 10.
McFadden was alone at the time and described as "calm and compliant".
Mr Maguire told the court: "He replied after caution 'What is a Class B drug, if you don't mind me asking?'"
During interviews the accused claimed he never touched the boxes placed on his trailer by a man he met at an industrial estate.
According to his account he believed the cargo contained tobacco to be taken to his house in return for £200 payment at a later date.
But the prosecution contended that McFadden later stated that he felt under threat.
His lorry remains seized pending the outcome of the police investigation.
Defence counsel insisted McFadden fully cooperated with detectives, maintaining that he knew nothing about what was in the packages.
"There's no evidence to suggest he looked inside the boxes," she added.
After hearing from the accused's wife, Lord Justice McCloskey granted bail on conditions including a £2,000 cash surety.
"This is a personal tragedy for the applicant and his family," the judge said.
"Whatever the outcome of the criminal proceedings against Mr McFadden, it rather appears that he has made an unfortunate, ill-advised decision for whatever reason."