A “mule at the bottom of the supply chain”, who internally smuggled up to £18,000-worth of cocaine into Jersey to get rid of an £800 drug debt, has been handed six years behind bars.
Kerrie-Ann Potts (39), whose life was described as a "catalogue of tragedy", appeared before Commissioner Julian Clyde-Smith, sitting with Jurats Collette Anne Crill, Jane Ronge and Robert Christensen MBE, to be sentenced for the 136g Class A importation this morning.
On 7 May 2021, Potts was stopped at Jersey Airport by a Customs and Immigration Officer in the arrivals area.
She told him she was staying on the island for four weeks to see her sister, but could not provide any photographic identification confirming her date of birth.
She then told officers the actual reason for her trip was to shop for a wedding dress having recently got engaged.
She said she had nothing to declare, and was not carrying anything for anyone else. When asked if she had used any controlled drugs, she said she had a buprenorphine injection a week prior to her travel.
When scanned, Potts' belongings tested positive for the presence of cocaine and heroin.
Pictured: Commissioner Julian Clyde-Smith agreed that Potts' life had been filled with "tragedy."
Potts said she had used "five lines of gear", and had borrowed the suitcase from a friend she would not name.
At this point, she became "agitated" and told officers, "if you want to search me then just search me," before removing her clothing in front of them.
Following a search, which did not find anything, officers arrested Potts and told her she was being held on suspicion of carrying drugs internally.
The hotel she claimed she was staying overnight at confirmed they did not have any bookings with Potts' name, for which she was unable to provide an explanation.
She was taken into custody, where, the following day, an officer entered her detention room to find a clingfilm wrapped package on the bed and two further packages in Potts' sock, telling officers it was "just PU," believed to mean 'personal use.'
When asked how many packages she had, she said she was't sure, as they were too big and she had to rewrap them - an x-ray later found there were other objects in her body, with a doctor removing two further packages.
The first three packages contained 81.37g of white powder - 33% of which was cocaine. The other two packages contained 54.14g of white powder, found to contain 41% by weight of cocaine.
The street value of the powder was estimated to be £13,500 to £18,900 if sold in 1g units, while the wholesale value would be £10,000 to £12,500 if sold in 1oz units.
Potts was interviewed twice with an Appropriate Adult on 8 May 2021 where she gave no comment to most questions but did admit she used cocaine.
She claimed the drugs she had imported were for personal use, but declining to reveal who supplied the drug, as well as acknowledging she knew it was illegal to import drugs into the island.
She pleaded guilty to the offence on 10 May, and has been in custody for 165 days.
Having started Crown Advocate Richard Pedley, recommended a sentence of six years and six months' imprisonment for Potts, taking a third off the 10-year sentencing guideline as credit for her guilty plea and mitigating circumstances.
He noted that she was at a high risk reoffending and, because of her trauma, was "vulnerable to exploitation".
Defending Potts, Advocate Allana Binnie described her as a "mule at the very bottom of the supply chain", who had "undertook this importation at the request of others who she will not name out of the genuine fear of reprisals" so that she could repay a drug debt of £800.
She illustrated how "from the age of eight years old there has been no form of respite in her deeply difficult upbringing and life", noting how she had been taking heroine and cocaine since she was 12 years old, and suffers "from PTSD as a result of multiple traumas".
Advocate Binnie further noted that Potts had not been "aware of the illegality of her actions [and] had no idea of the street value of the drugs locally or the much harsher sentencing policy of the courts in Jersey", though added that Potts knew this wasn't an excuse.
She urged the court to take this into account, noting the "huge progress" she had made since being in custody, where she has been drug-free for the first time since she was a little girl - something she said Potts had called "a blessing".
As part of a commitment to recovery, Potts was quoted as saying that she would also not be applying to a UK prison for at least 15/18 months, as she knows the situation around drug use is very different in those prisons compared to Jersey.
With this in mind, Advocate Binnie urged the court to reduce Potts' possible sentence further, to five years.
Summing up, Commissioner Clyde-Smith agreed with Advocate Binnie's comments that Potts' life had been a "catalogue of tragedy", noting that "that the defendant has PTSD symptoms due to a multitude of traumas that she has experienced with exposure to high-risk individuals during both her childhood and adulthood."
He agreed that while a further reduction in the sentence was warranted due to the mitigating circumstances, the Crown's recommendation of reducing her sentence by one third for her guilty plea was too "generous", and so sentenced her to six years in prison.
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