A HOMELESS charity chef caught with nearly €14,000 worth of cocaine in his home told gardai he had found the drugs in a shopping bag near bins in his apartment building.

Father-of-three Declan Garnett (46), described in court as a "family man" brought the package inside and hid it in the sleeve of his wife’s jacket before it was found during a garda raid.

Judge Karen O’Connor said she was “shocked” that Garnett’s defence had submitted letters written on his behalf by his 12 and 14 year old children for consideration in his case.

She adjourned sentencing for the production of a probation report.

Garnett admitted possession of cocaine with intent to sell or supply at his home at Hampton Wood Road, Finglas on December 6, 2016.

Garda Cathal Connolly of Dublin Circuit Criminal Court Garnett’s home Garnett and his family were at home when the address was searched under warrant that day.

Two packets of cocaine were found in a toiletry bag concealed in the sleeve of a ladies’ jacket in the bedroom he shared with his wife.

On analysis, the packets contained 198g of cocaine and had an estimated street value of €13,923.

On March 11, 2017 Garnett gave a voluntary interview in which he told gardai he had found the cocaine in a shopping bag located in the communal bins area of the apartment complex.

He said he took it upstairs and put it in the sleeve of his wife’s coat. Garnett told gardai he had the cocaine for two to three days and did not know what to do with it.

He had no previous convictions.

Garda Connolly told Judge O’Connor Garnett had accepted full responsibility for the drugs.

He agreed with Paul Comiskey O’Keeffe BL, for Garnett, that there were “no trappings of wealth” in his home and no drugs paraphernalia.

Garnett was a “family man” and “very much a hands-on father”, Mr Comiskey O’Keeffe said.

Among the jobs he had worked were as a chef for a company that provided services to the homeless community.

Reading testimonials that were handed up, Judge O’Connor said she was “very surprised” that the letters included one from Garnett’s 12-year-old child.

Mr Comiskey O’Keeffe said the children were made aware of the matter for the first time yesterday and they were a close-knit family.

“I am really shocked that a 12-year-old would be involved in putting pen to paper in a case of this nature,” Judge O’Connor said.

Garnett’s 20-year-old daughter described him as an “inspiration and hero figure” to her, Mr Comiskey O’Keeffe said.

Judge O’Connor said she was concerned about Garnett’s two younger children being involved in writing letters, saying it was “ill advised for them to be involved in the process in this way.”

“I can tell you the children’s letters hold very little sway with me,” she said.

Mr Comiskey O’Keeffe asked the judge to view the offence as a “one off” and said it could be classed as an “error of judgement.”

Ordering a pre-sentence probation report, Judge O’Connor said she did not want this to be taken as an indication that she was not considering a prison sentence.

“I do not want to see a letter sent to me again by a 12-year-old child,” the judge added. Garnett was remanded on continuing bail, to appear in court again on January 26.