A 45-year-old woman was acquitted of possession of a Class B drug at Fermanagh Magistrates Court on Monday after a witness in the case admitted that the drugs actually belonged to him.

On May 18, 2019, police were in attendance at the address of Tanya Gillen at Willowvale, Enniskillen on an unrelated matter.

A police officer giving evidence to the court said, on entering the house, he detected a smell of cannabis. While in the kitchen the smell became stronger and stronger until it was overpowering. The officer said that there was clothing on a radiator in the kitchen and underneath the clothes there was a small handful of cannabis wrapped in plastic and kitchen roll. The radiator was heating up which resulted in the smell becoming stronger. The cannabis was seized and when the defendant returned to the house after 11pm, a notebook interview was carried out.

Gillen was cautioned and replied that it was not her’s and she doesn’t smoke cannabis. Gillen said she did not know who owned the cannabis and when asked what was in the bag she replied that it was green.

The officer said the drugs were sent for examination and when they results came back confirming it was cannabis, he informed Gillen that she would be reported to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

During cross examination by Gillen’s solicitor, Tommy Owens, the officer said he had no recollection of being told by the defendant that she knew who owned the drugs. During her evidence, Gillen told the court that on the date in question she was at Omagh Police Station and when she returned home was questioned about the cannabis. She said she had no knowledge but subsequently found out who the owner was a day or two later when she received a phone call from a friend asking if she had found anything in the kitchen. District Judge Steven Keown asked why she did not tell police to which Gillen said she did but did not provide a name.

During cross examination by the prosecution, Gillen accepted that she had not told police about the friend visiting in the morning and remained adamant that the cannabis did not belong to her.

The 45 year old said that when she tried to tell the officer about the owner of the drugs she was told to tell it to the judge when it got to court. Judge Keown then asked why she did not tell anybody when summonsed to which Gillen replied: “I was told to tell yourself.”

The third witness in the case, Gary Johnston took the stand and told the court that he had visited Gillen on the morning of May 18 and took off his jacket because it was too hot and put it on the radiator and the cannabis was his and for personal use.

He said he phoned the next day asking about it and that he would own up to owning it.

Mr. Johnston was asked why he did not contact anybody before the court case to admit he owned the drugs and he said he had come to court today to clear the defendant’s name. Judge Keown said it was a very unfortunate case that took up time and expense and that nobody involved thought to notify the authorities to who owned the cannabis.

In the circumstances he could not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Gillen owned the cannabis and therefore acquitted her. He added that he assumed the investigating officer and PPS would take appropriate action after the admission.