The drug mule responsible for bringing in “the largest ever seizure of heroin in the Channel Islands” has been jailed for 14 years.
29-year-old Alexander David Cullen, a former addict whose “past caught up with him”, brought just under ten kilograms of the Class A drug into Jersey, concealed in customised compartment within his van’s fuel tank, to try and clear his debts to Ibiza drug dealers.
He appeared in the island’s Royal Court this morning to be sentenced for the importation which could have seen Jersey “flooded” with heroin worth up to £10million.
Responsible for the biggest haul of the drug the island has ever seen, Cullen is currently La Moye’s only ‘category A’ prisoner – meaning his rights within the jail are heavily restricted – and now faces a 14-year sentence for his crime.
Video: Alexander Cullen leaving Court having heard of his 14-year prison sentence.
Crown Advocate Matthew Maletroit, prosecuting, summarised the facts of the case for the Court.
He explained that Cullen was stopped by Customs Officers when he arrived off the Condor Liberation from Poole on 7 September this year. Cullen pretended that he was in the island to “sell a child’s quad bike to a person named ‘Lee’”, but this was later found to be a cover story for the drug smuggling.
The fuel tank of Cullen’s Volkswagen van was found to have been interfered with, and officers discovered that it had been “adapted” to conceal the heroin inside.
The Crown Advocate continued: “The fuel tank had two countersunk compartments in which 18 plastic wrapped packages had been secreted.
“One compartment had been created using a kitchen washing up bowl and the other compartment was created using a smaller fibreglass box. The top of each compartment had been covered in tape and painted black.”
In total, Cullen had attempted to bring in just under 10kg of the drug.
Pictured: The van that Cullen brought the drugs in with (Customs & Immigration)
Although the Crown accepted that Cullen was just a “courier” of the drugs, they argued that the large quantity indicated the “high level of trust” vested in him and his “closeness to the source of the drugs.”
The Court was also told about Cullen’s background and how he had started using cannabis as a teenager and having “experimented with cocaine” whilst living in the ‘party island’ of Ibiza. It was there, Cullen told his Probation Officer, that his drug habit “spiralled out of control”.
His debt to those that supplied him rose to £20,000 and then £30,000, even after Cullen had taken steps to distance himself from his drug-taking lifestyle by moving home to Liverpool, and getting a job in John Lennon Airport.
In his meetings with the Probation Officer, Cullen claimed that his former dealers had made threats against him and his family in order to pressure him into carrying out the importation.
In light of the seriousness of the attempted importation, the Crown Advocate invited the Court to impose a 14-year prison sentence.
Advocate Sarah Dale, representing Cullen, argued that the Crown’s recommended sentence was “too high” and that, at this level of drugs importation, it’s important for the Court to look more closely at the role played by her client rather than the amount of drugs seized.
She drew the distinction between “someone higher up the chain of command… who is likely to profit very significantly” from such an operation in comparison to “a courier or pawn who may not be set to gain financially at all.”
Pictured: The case was heard in the Royal Court.
It’s this latter role, Advocate Dale insisted, that her client took in this importation and that his only motivation was to get his debts wiped clean.
Mr Cullen, she stated, “found himself in what he felt was an impossible situation, having accumulated a debt to those who supplied him.”
The defence lawyer emphasised that her client “tried his best to move on” from his former life in Ibiza, but that “his past caught up with him.”
Focusing in particular on his supportive family, his attempts to stabilise his life, his remorse for his involvement in the importation and his early ‘guilty’ plea, Advocate Dale invited the Court to impose a sentence lower than the recommendations of the Crown.
The case was heard by a panel of five Jurats – Steven Austin-Vautier, Robert Christensen, Jerry Ramsden, Rozanne Thomas and Jane Ronge - who only assemble as the ‘Superior Number’ to pass sentence on the most serious of cases.
The Bailiff Tim Le Cocq, presiding over the hearing, handed down the Court’s decision to sentence Cullen to 14 years in prison, as asked for by the Crown.
“We are a small island and the effect of a substantial importation into the island is felt and greater prejudice is caused than in a larger jurisdiction.”
Pictured: Cullen is currently La Moye's only category A prisoner.
The island’s chief judge continued by noting that the fact Cullen wasn’t fully aware of the nature of the drugs that had been stashed in his van by those pressuring him into carrying out the importation shouldn’t have any bearing on the sentence he receives.
“You were prepared to import illegal drugs into Jersey; irrespective of their nature and irrespective of their quantity.”
Having given the Court’s reasons, the Bailiff then sentenced Cullen to 14 years in prison.
Following the sentencing hearing, Andrew Hunt, Acting Director for Jersey Customs and Immigration Service issued the following statement:
“The 10 kg of heroin seized from Alexander Cullen’s vehicle is the largest drug seizure ever made in Jersey.
“The 10kg of heroin, if successfully imported and distributed, would have resulted in significant profit for the organisers whilst negatively impacting some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The high purity of some of the heroin indicates that the consignment might have been further cut to achieve even greater profits.
“Making such significant seizures plays an essential part in identifying and disrupting organised crime groups involved in the importation of drugs into the Island. We work alongside the States of Jersey Police and a range of other agencies in the UK and abroad to achieve this.”
Pictured (top): The "adapted" fuel tank in which the heroin was concealed (Customs & Immigration).
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