A 30-year-old man described as having a “child’s mind” has been jailed for four years for smuggling high-purity heroin worth £82,000 to Jersey after being targeted by drug dealers who took advantage of his vulnerabilities.
Steven David Herring was arrested in Jersey on 30 October 2019 after arriving from Liverpool.
At his Royal Court sentencing hearing yesterday, Crown Advocate Chris Baglin described the case as that of “a courier with no interest in the profit to be made”.
The Court heard that Herring initially told Customs officers he was in the island for four days to visit his girlfriend – whose address he couldn’t provide – and to attend a party.
Pictured: Herring was arrested by Customs Officer on 30 October 2019.
Herring admitted having used cocaine a couple of days prior but denied having anything illegal on him. He also said a scan of his body would not reveal anything. It was only after several hours and an inconclusive X-ray that Herring admitted he had three packages inside him. However, he told officers he didn’t know what they contained.
The three packages were wrapped in condoms and contained a brown powder which tested positive for heroin. A report produced by a Customs Officer reported the drugs were of “very high purity” (74%) and would have a potential street value of up to £82,000.
The Court heard Herring had four previous convictions, but none of the same severity.
Crown Advocate Baglin referred to an expert report which highlighted Herring’s “complex personal disabilities and vulnerabilities” linked to Klinefelter syndrome – a chromosomal condition that affects men’s physical and intellectual development with which Herring was diagnosed five years ago.
Pictured: The Royal Court heard that Herring had Klinefelter syndrome – a chromosomal condition that affects men’s physical and intellectual development.
Advocate Allana Binnie, defending, told Court that Herring had had no part in the planning of the importation and had no real idea of the quantity or type of drugs. “He was absolutely a mule,” she said, adding he had been taken advantage of.
She explained Herring’s mother had contacted her to share her concerns about the psychological effects associated with Klinefelter syndrome, which led Herring’s “significant autistic and ADHD traits” to being discovered when an expert was commissioned to compile a report about him.
Advocate Binnie explained those as well as Herring's low IQ made him more susceptible to persuasion.
She said her client was naïve to say he wouldn’t have carried the act had he known what he was carrying, given his disabilities and vulnerabilities.
“He didn’t have unrestricted freedom in relation to having the choice,” she argued.
The Court heard that Herring had a difficult upbringing and never really “fitted in."
Pictured: The Deputy Bailiff, Robert MacRae, was sitting with Jurats Charles Blampied, Jane Ronge and Pam Pitman.
Returning the Court’s sentence, the Deputy Bailiff, Robert MacRae, who was sitting with Jurats Charles Blampied, Jane Ronge and Pam Pitman, noted Herring’s “difficult background."
He referred to the expert’s report which noted Herring had “autistic traits consistent with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD."
The Deputy Bailiff noted how Herring had been deemed “exceptionally suggestible” and “extremely liable to give way to pressure from people from everyday life."
Describing Herring as “a vulnerable man completely out of his depth”, the Deputy Bailiff suggested he had been targeted because of his vulnerabilities.
Referring to letters written on Herring’s behalf, the Deputy Bailiff said his brother’s and sister’s letters had been “exceptionally moving” and put his offending in context. He highlighted how that they had mentioned Herring’s challenges, including how he was “unable to fit in, socially inept… a child’s mind in a man’s body."
Noting how Herring’s challenges had neither been understood nor treated until his recent diagnosis, the Deputy Bailiff said the court hoped he would be able to receive the support he needs in custody, before imposing a four-year prison sentence.
Following the sentencing, Senior Manager for Borders from Jersey’s Customs and Immigration Service Andy Allan said: “The seizure of this commercial amount of heroin, valued at £82,000, was the result of the diligent work of JCIS officers at Jersey Airport.
"The four-year sentence handed down to Steven Herring by the Royal Court today, reflects the seriousness of this crime and the potentially devastating impact it could have had if the heroin had made its way into the Island community.
"Today’s sentencing should serve as a warning for any would-be drug traffickers - the detection and seizure of commercial amounts of Class A drugs is a priority for JCIS and those who are caught will feel the full extent of the law.”
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