A CONVICTED drug user who had over £1,000 in cash seized from his house during a search by police last summer has failed in a bid to have the money returned to him.
Warren Masterson, of Derrychara Park, Enniskillen, appeared before Fermanagh Magistrates Court on Monday to contest an application brought by the PSNI to forfeit the seized cash.
Masterson received a suspended jail sentence in April this year after police uncovered hallucinogenic ‘magic mushrooms’, £3,000 worth of cannabis and small plastic bags at his home in July 2016.
During the search of his property, police had also seized a total of £1,150 in cash from a wardrobe in his bedroom.
While he admitted cultivating cannabis plants and possessing Class A and B controlled drugs, Mr. Masterson was not convicted in a criminal court of supplying the illicit substances.
On Monday, the PSNI made a civil application to have the seized cash forfeited, as they argued that, on the balance of probabilities, it was derived from the sale and supply of drugs.
But this was strongly denied by Mr. Masterson, who instead claimed that the money was earnings from his work as a self-employed painter and decorator.
The court heard that the respondent, Mr. Masterson, had given police an explanation for the cash during an interview on July 27 last year. He provided police with two invoices for recent work he had carried out, both on a sub-contracting basis and on his own.
Taking to the stand, Mr. Masterson told the court that around £720 of the cash had been given to him by a fellow painter, Gabriel Cassidy, for sub-contracting work.
He further claimed that £310 in cash had been given to him by a man called Martin Hinchcliffe for work carried out on the exterior of his property in June and July.
Mr. Masterson told the court that Mr. Cassidy had given him most of the money on a Saturday morning, but he didn’t have a chance to bank it as he was going to a concert in Dublin that night.
Insisting that the cash was proceeds from his work and not from the sale of drugs, the respondent said: “I’m not sitting with three BMWs in my driveway. I’m not a very rich man.”
However, his evidence concerning the amount of money he was paid was contradicted by both Mr. Cassidy and Mr. Hinchcliffe, who each appeared as witnesses.
Mr. Cassidy told the court that he had been working along with the respondent for around 13 or 14 years.
He said that the invoice produced by Mr. Masterson related to work done between May and July last year, and further confirmed that most of it was paid in cash.
However, during cross-examination, Mr. Cassidy revealed that he had only paid Mr. Masterson £300 on the day before the search – substantially less than the respondent had claimed when he gave his own evidence.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hinchcliffe told the court that the respondent had painted the outside of his house from August into September last year, some time after the police interview in July.
He then added that Mr. Masterson had painted the inside of the house in June.
“I paid him £40 or £50 for the work he did [in June],” the witness stated.
District judge, Amanda Brady, observed that she was satisfied on a civil standard that the money should be detained and granted the PSNI’s forfeiture application.
As he got up to leave the courtroom, Mr. Masterson was heard to say: “Well, that was a waste of time.”