A successful local florist has been jailed for four years for importing drugs into Jersey - the most serious being crystal meth, which he was described as being "strongly addicted" to.
The Royal Court heard that Mark Howe (49) repeatedly imported illegal drugs into the island over a 21-month period between the beginning of 2018 and last November, when he was stopped by Customs at the Airport and found to have a sachet of the Class A substance.
His defence in the Royal Court sentencing on Tuesday said that Howe considered it a “blessed relief” when he was caught, as he could “not only come clean with his friends but also come clean of this terrible drug.”
Howe was sentenced for 30 importations - mostly via the post - which cost him £6,079 in total. In addition to the 54g of crystal meth, Howe was also found to have imported just under 2g of the Class A drug cocaine, and 720 ml of GHB and four tablets of zopiclone, both in Class C.
Most of the importations were identified from messages and the Royal Mail’s postal tracking service, which were revealed when Howe surrendered his mobile phone to Customs and gave officers the PIN number.
Each of the importations were small quantities and for personal use.
The Court heard that Howe was strongly addicted to crystal meth, which he had started taking at clubs and parties in London but his dependence had forced him to import it to Jersey.
Crown Advocate Chris Baglin said: “The data extracted from the defendant’s phone showed that he had been regularly importing Class A and Class C drugs into Jersey over a prolonged period.
“Further evidence from the phone demonstrates how he sourced drugs and his use of them in different jurisdictions.
Pictured: A significant amount of the case against Howe was based on data found in his mobile phone.
“The phone data shows conversations about the commodities the defendant wanted sent and where to, how they were to be packaged and what defences could be used if the drugs were seized by the authorities.
“On some occasions, photographs of the drugs and postal packages were sent from his suppliers and one two occasions, [Howe] was concerned a packet had been seized and conversations occurred regarding these scenarios.
“The telephone conversations and messages are extensive and evidence that the defendant was ordering, paying for and importing controlled drugs into the Island.”
Pictured: Advocate Mike Preston made an "admirable" defence of Howe, according to Commissioner Sir William Bailihache.
In defence, Advocate Mike Preston urged the court not to send Howe to prison, where he has been on remand since September, and instead impose a community service order alongside probation and treatment orders.
“This is an exceptional case deserving of an individualised sentence,” he said. “The background reports make very sad and thought-provoking reading, which I hope the Court considers with empathy and insight when it retires.”
He added that the Court should give the florist significant mitigation for staying off the highly addictive crystal meth since his arrest, his early plea, his remorse, the damage to his business, the fact that he had been drug-free since his arrest over a year ago, and his “determination to not only get out of the depths of despair but also to repay the kindness shown by others”.
“The drugs were only for personal use,” he added. “There was not even a social supply base to sell them at cost to friends. It was purely and simply a case of personal use and he only harmed himself.”
Advocate Preston said that Howe’s drug use had its foundations in a “sheltered background in Northern Ireland” as well as the “tragic” loss of a friend and the end of a significant relationship.
“This all led to a desire to fit in, be loved and not be rejected, which prompted him to try drugs for the first time aged 43,” said Advocate Preston. “With low tolerance to such chemicals, his addiction to crystal meth - the most pernicious of drugs - was all consuming.”
Pictured: Royal Court Commissioner Bailhache was sitting with Jurats Collette Crill, Jerry Ramsden and Jane Ronge.
In passing sentence, Royal Court Commissioner Sir William Bailihache said to Howe, who appeared from HMP La Moye via video link: “The fact that the drugs were for your personal use is a significant part of your mitigation. It is right because you were not passing on to other people, which is to your credit.
“However, it is also important to add that your behaviour fuels the demand for these drugs in the marketplace, generally.
“You have turned your life around since being stopped by Customs last November. Do not underestimate the importance of that: we respect you for taking back control of your own life.
“Nonetheless, we cannot see it is appropriate to pass a prison sentence of less than four years imprisonment [for the counts relating to crystal meth].
“We have respect for your efforts to get past your addiction, and we hope that your time in custody will ensure that you will also beat it in the future.”
Commissioner Bailhache was sitting with Jurats Collette Crill, Jerry Ramsden and Jane Ronge.
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