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Dublin: 8 °C Thursday 22 March, 2018

Former Leeds and Shamrock Rovers player jailed for transporting almost €200k of cannabis

Robert Bayly was described by his barrister as “a child prodigy” who fell into gambling when he moved to Leeds at 14.

Robert Bayly in action for Shamrock Rovers in July 2014.
Robert Bayly in action for Shamrock Rovers in July 2014.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

A FORMER LEEDS United and Republic of Ireland youth team footballer has been jailed for two and half years after he was caught transporting almost €200,000 worth of cannabis.

Robert Bayly (30) was described by his barrister as “a child prodigy” who fell into gambling when he moved to Leeds United as a 14-year-old boy. His gambling continued into adulthood and he ultimately agreed to transport the drugs to pay off a €6,500 debt, Dominic McGinn SC told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Bayly, of Cedarbrook Way, Ballyfermot, Dublin pleaded guilty to possession of the drugs for sale or supply at Cherry Orchard Drive, also Ballyfermot, on 12 May, 2017. Bayly, who also played professional football in Ireland for several clubs including Shamrock Rovers and Drogheda United, has no previous convictions, the court heard today.

Garda Neil McGrath told Antonia Boyle BL, prosecuting, that gardaí stopped the Nissan Almera Bayly was driving and noticed a “very strong smell of cannabis”. Bayly admitted there was “weed in the boot” before gardaí discovered 10 small packages of cannabis. The drugs had an estimated street value of €194,284.

Bayly said in garda interview that he agreed to transport the drugs so that a gambling debt of €6,500 would be reduced. He said he was in fear for his life and that of his daughter and girlfriend.

Gda McGrath told Mr McGinn that officers accepted that Bayly gave “a truthful account” of his role in the operation. He agreed that Bayly was extremely mannerly, co-operative and “the smallest cog in the wheel”.

“I got the impression that he didn’t fully understand what was happening,” Gda McGrath said.

He accepted that Bayly told gardaí in interview that he was glad he was caught because it meant that “a huge amount of drugs wouldn’t make it onto the street”.

Soccer - Coca-Cola Football League Championship - Derby County v Leeds United - Pride Park Bayly, at the age of 19, made his first-team debut for Leeds United in 2007. Source: EMPICS Sport

Mr McGinn told Judge Martin Nolan that Bayly had a “huge amount of contact” with the older players in the three years he spent in Leeds, which was where he was introduced to gambling. He said his client played for Shamrock Rovers and various other clubs here where his addiction got out of control.

“He was earning decent money as a footballer,” Mr McGinn said, but said he had no assets. He said Bayly completed all but one week of a 12-week rehabilitative programme but left because he was offered a contract with Drogheda United.

Counsel said Bayly relapsed following the death of his grandmother and began to build up debt. He said he was under threat and at one point showed up for a match having been badly assaulted the night before.

Mr McGinn said Bayly then became concerned for his daughter’s welfare and “felt he had no option” but to agree to transport the drugs. Mr McGinn submitted to the court that his client fell into a “totally different category” to other people charged with the same offence.

He said Bayly had been “born with a gift” and outlined some of Bayly’s sporting achievements which including playing against Juventus as a Shamrock Rovers player.

Robert Bayly and Claudio Marchisio Bayly challenging Claudio Marchisio of Juventus in a Europa League game in 2010. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Counsel handed in a number of testimonials and said Bayly was instrumental in helping football club Bluebell United set up a schoolboy training academy. He said he comes from a supportive family, is in a stable relationship and has a five-year-old daughter.

Mr McGinn said it would be “a tragic waste of my client’s abilities” if he were sent to jail. Judge Nolan accepted that threats had been made against Bayly and that he felt forced to co-operate but he added that he was an adult when he committed the offence.

“He made a gross misjudgement. He should not have succumbed to those pressures,” Judge Nolan said before he jailed Bayly for two and half years.

He said he had noticed that many people who were caught with drugs in a similar manner to Bayly had no previous convictions before he added that he believed this was the reason they were “picked” by others to transport drugs.

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Sonya McClean

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