Sun | May 19, 2024

British construction worker sentenced to two years for cocaine

Published:Saturday | June 3, 2023 | 12:12 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

DAVID THOMAS, the British national who was caught trying to smuggle 16 pounds of cocaine through the Sangster International Airport on May 3, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment by the St James Parish Court on Wednesday.

Thomas, a 58-year-old construction worker of a London, England address, was also slapped with a combined $3 million fine after pleading guilty to possession of, dealing in, and attempting to export cocaine. He pleaded not guilty to the charge of conspiracy to export cocaine, for which the prosecution offered no evidence.

During Thomas’ sentencing hearing, his attorney Michael Hemmings declared that while his client had previously been imprisoned in relation to 20 pounds of cocaine in 2009, Thomas’ current involvement in drug trafficking was not of his own free will.

“Mr Thomas has a previous conviction, some 14 years ago in England, for something similar. But he said his doing so now was not voluntary, but under duress for whatever reason. He was very cooperative with the police from the very same time of his arrest,” said Hemmings.

“For 14 years he was keeping himself on the right path, and it is an indication that he can be a law-abiding citizen. It is quite unfortunate that he has found himself in this position where he is now at the mercy of a court once more to make a determination as to where his future stands,” Hemmings added.

“He is very remorseful, and he wanted to plead guilty at the very first opportunity, but I had no statements at the time and I indicated I would not be in a position as counsel to give a plea without such disclosure.”

SAME OFFENCE

In handing down Thomas’ sentence, presiding judge Sasha-Marie Ashley said it was unfortunate that the defendant was back in court for the same offence that had previously got him incarcerated.

“Having walked this path before and having understood the consequences of making those choices, it is unfortunate that 14 years later you appear in court again. You are still a relatively young person, and you have an opportunity this time, when you come out, to really make a change,” Judge Ashley told Thomas.

In addition to the mandatory two-year term of imprisonment, Thomas was ordered to pay a fine of $1 million or six months’ imprisonment for possession of cocaine, and $2 million or six months for attempting to export cocaine. He was admonished and discharged for dealing in cocaine.

The facts are that on May 3, at 2:30 p.m., Thomas checked in at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay to board an outbound flight to Manchester, England, when his luggage was subjected to a routine search.

During the search, a white powdery substance resembling cocaine, valued at $3 million, was found in four packages hidden inside Thomas’ luggage. He was taken into custody and interviewed, during which he reportedly stated he had received the contraband from a certain location, but would not say where or from whom.

He was subsequently arrested and charged with breaches of the Dangerous Drugs Act.

Thomas is one of eight British nationals who have been arrested and brought before the court in recent times on separate charges relating to trafficking of cocaine valued at an approximate combined value of $100 million, and the fourth to be sentenced before the St James Parish Court.

Prior to Thomas’ conviction, fellow Britons Luke Bradly and Loran Bartley were each sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment and a fine of $1.5 million on May 19, while Ashanta Ferguson was given a 12-month prison term and ordered to pay a $1.5 million fine on May 22.

christopher.thomas@gleanerjm.com