Two men jailed over a conspiracy to flood Jersey with over £500,000 worth of cannabis are fighting a bid to make them surrender the value of the Class B drugs because they deny ever ‘owning’ them.
John O’Connor and Norman Templeton-Brown, who were 61 and 54 respectively at the time of sentencing, yesterday returned to the Royal Court where they disputed a confiscation order seeking to recuperate £507,000 of tainted cash from each of them.
Confiscation proceedings against their co-conspirator David Arrowsmith (57) were dropped by the Crown at the same hearing.
Alongside three others, the men – collectively referred to by Police as the "cannabis gang", who were caught during their 'Operation Raven' investigation – were jailed for a total of 45 years between them back in May.
Pictured: The drugs gang were sentenced earlier this year.
One man – Alan Smitton – was also involved in a separate conspiracy involving heroin and was handed one of the longest sentences imposed by a Jersey court in years.
Although the wealth that the convicts currently have may not equal the amount sought by the order, if successful, it leaves the door open for the prosecution to claim that amount from them at any time should they come into money.
Crown Advocate Simon Thomas told the Royal Court yesterday that the amount sought by the prosecution had been calculated by taking the lowest street value assessed by the expert drugs analyst.
But, during the hearing, a legal dispute arose from the legal definition of what it means to 'own' property - in this instance, drugs – and whether O'Connor and Templeton-Brown could be seen to be responsible along with their co-defendants for all of the cannabis.
Video: The men leaving the Royal Court after their sentencing in May.
Describing O’Connor as taking a “key co-ordinator role” in Jersey, the Crown Advocate Thomas acknowledged that the 61-year-old only has £429 to his name.
He said the Crown would only be seeking to take that amount at this time, but would return to Court to recuperate up to £507,000 from him if he later came into further wealth.
Advocate Michael Haines disputed the fact that his client was so high up in the chain, saying that the Crown should prove its case on “evidence” and “not by speculation or assumption.”
He claimed that O’Connor had “a very specific role” in the plot and that was as “a foot soldier” who had to find local buyers for the cannabis, flatly denying that his client ever had ownership rights over the drugs or sought to benefit financially from its sale.
Pictured: The confiscation hearing took place in the Royal Court.
Although he was only involved in that he allowed his lock-up to be used to store the drugs while he was on holiday, the Crown Advocate suggested that Templeton-Brown was "involved in the conspiracy from an earlier stage”.
Advocate James Bell – appearing for Templeton-Brown – refuted this, telling the Royal Court that his client was only a “custodian” of the drugs and that the prosecution “haven’t advanced enough evidence" that he had benefitted to the tune of £507,000. He therefore argued for the confiscation order to be dismissed.
The case was heard by Deputy Bailiff Tim Le Cocq, sitting with Jurats Austin-Vautier, Christensen, Blampied, Ramsden and Thomas.
The Court reserved its judgment and will hand it down on another occasion.
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