Record £400K heroin seizure leads to 17-year sentence for Jersey-based career criminal
A TINY trace of DNA extracted from the inside of a protein tub that housed a mammoth haul of heroin helped States police detectives bring a career criminal to justice, the Royal Court has heard.
Serial offender Alan James Smitton was jailed for a total of 17 years by the Royal Court’s Superior Number – one of the highest drug-related sentences in recent times – for his role in a major heroin operation.
His two co-conspirators, John Banach and Simon Reeves, were jailed for ten-and-a-half years and seven-and-half years respectively.
As he was led away from the dock, Smitton shouted obscenities at a States police detective who was sitting in court.
The prosecutions follow a major States police undercover operation codenamed Operation Raven. The three defendants, as well as five others connected to a major cannabis conspiracy, were tracked for over two months by officers from the force’s priority crime team.
Detective Sergeant Jim McGranahan, who led the operation, told the JEP that the police and prosecutors were struggling to pin the drug offences on Smitton until his DNA was found inside the protein tub.
Outlining the case, Crown Advocate Matthew Maletroit said the quantity of heroin seized was the largest ever seen in the Island. He told the court that such was the quantity of the drug that it would have been sufficient to provide 8,000 individual deals.
He added: ‘The defendants all played key roles in the trafficking enterprise, which has a devastating impact on the community.’
The Royal Court’s Superior Number, which convenes only for the most serious cases, heard that undercover officers tracked Banach to Reeves’ address on 6 December 2017 as part of a long-running surveillance operation codenamed Operation Raven. States police officers later searched the property and found heroin traces on a coffee table.
Reeves, the court heard, was asked by officers whether there was any more heroin on the premises and he was told a drugs dog would be released on a search.
The court heard that Reeves told officers: ‘There is some more heroin in a drawer under the bed but it’s not mine. I am looking after it for someone.’
A total of £405,000 of the class-A drug was found inside an old protein powder tub hidden underneath a bed. DNA analysis of the inside of the tub showed matches to Smitton, Banach and Reeves.
Smitton’s lawyer, Advocate Rebecca Morley-Kirk, said her client should be sentenced to no more than 15 years in prison.
She said: ‘He accepts guilt in relation to heroin; it is not simply a case that he was found guilty. He also accepts guilt in relation to the cannabis conspiracy.’
Advocate Michael Haines, defending Banach, said his client was a heroin addict.
He told the court: ‘Firstly the defendant is recruited by another, he was principally to be a custodian to mind the heroin. He took receipt of the heroin and passed it on to Reeves to look after and he was permitted to use part of the heroin for his own use. He is a heroin-user and his life has been wasted trying to come off heroin unsuccessfully.’
Advocate Haines added: ‘Those high up in the drug world do not take risks; they recruit people to take those risks. Mr Banach was recruited to take the risk.’
Advocate Sarah Dale, defending Reeves, said he was a ‘passive’ minder in the operation. She told the court: ‘I fully accept that a role of a minder is an important one that demonstrates a degree of trust in that individual.
‘This was not a case of someone taking part for financial gain; it was a case where the dangling carrot of free drugs, in circumstances where he had a chronic dependency spanning 30 years, was all that was required.’
Advocate Dale added that the purity of the heroin was very low. She told the court that when the States analyst first carried out tests a purity of 70% was recorded. Her client, she says, instructed her that if that was the case he ‘would be dead’. The drugs were re-analysed and it transpired that a decimal place had been put in the wrong place and the drugs were actually 7% pure.
Jurats Jerry Ramsden, Rozanne Thomas, Pamela Pitman, Robert Christensen and Joanne Averty were sitting.