Gwent men fail in appeal over multi-million pound drugs racket
8:10am Saturday 14th September 2013 in Monmouthshire news
TWO Gwent men who were jailed for a total of 44 years for smuggling millions of pounds worth of hard drugs into the UK failed in an attempt to clear their names.
Michael Oliver, 65, of Brynton Road, Newport and Christopher Hill, 63, of Caldicot appeared at the Court of Appeal in London yesterday.
Both men had been found guilty at Kingston Crown Court of being concerned in the importation of four types of drugs- with jurors hearing how they helped dealers get cocaine, heroin, cannabis and amphetamine worth more than £12 million into the country in disguised freight shipments.
Following last July’s trial, Oliver was jailed for 23 years and Hill for 21. The appeal was heard and rejected by three top judges, Lord Justice Lloyd Jones, Mr Justice Coulson and Mr Justice Holroyde.
Lord Justice Lloyd Jones said: “The participants in this criminal enterprise knew they were playing for high stakes. They provided an essential specialist service which allowed others to import £12 million worth of drugs."
During the trial, the court heard Oliver and Hill were responsible for three shipments of high-quality drugs from Holland in 2008.
In July 2008, a £1.7m load of 16 kilos of cocaine was seized at Harwich, in Essex, followed by the interception of 48 kilos of cannabis at Cardiff Gate Services on the M4 in October.
A month later, a shipment containing 32 kilos of cocaine worth £2.7m, 49 kilos of heroin worth £4.9m, and 107 kilos of amphetamine with a street value of £3.3m was seized at a freight depot at Heathrow.
The prosecution case alleged that, although the pair did not own the drugs, they had provided an importation service to others.
Appealing yesterday, lawyers for the two men argued that their defence case had been unfairly prejudiced by the way important evidence was adduced at their trial.
It did not allow defence lawyers to deal with the evidence at the point in the trial they should have done, the judges were told.
But after a half-day hearing, Lord Justice Jones dismissed their appeals, saying any prejudice caused to the pair's defences would have been minimal.
Oliver also tried to appeal against the length of his sentence, but Lord Justice Jones said the term was "severe", but justified.
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