RJ, R v, Court of Appeal - Criminal Division, November 28, 2017, [2017] EWCA Crim 1943

Resolution Date:November 28, 2017
Issuing Organization:Criminal Division
Actores:RJ, R v

Neutral Citation Number: [2017] EWCA Crim 1943

Case No: 2016 01980 C4



His Honour Judge Roach

T2015 7002

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 28/11/2017


Lord Justice Simon

Mr Justice Green


His Honour Judge Mark Brown (the Recorder of Preston)

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Simon Farrell QC for the Appellant

Lee Bremridge for the Respondent

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Lord Justice Simon:


  1. On 5 February 2016, in the Crown Court at Bristol (before HHJ Roach and a jury) the appellant was convicted of conspiracy to import cannabis contrary to s.1 Criminal Law Act 1977. On 19 February 2016, before the same constitution, he was sentenced to a term of 9 years' imprisonment.

  2. There were 3 co-accused. Malcolm John pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and was sentenced to 64 months' imprisonment. Peter Davies and Claire Jones were acquitted.

  3. The appellant appeals against that conviction with the leave of the full court, which granted the necessary extension of time.

  4. The case concerned an agreement to bring cannabis into the United Kingdom from South Africa. The offending came to light in early October 2013 when customs officials carried out a routine inspection of a consignment of goods that had been flown in to Heathrow Airport, and discovered 650kg of herbal cannabis made up of individual blocks. The street value of the illegal consignment was more of £1.5 million.

  5. The shipping documentation bore the legend `seven pallets of personal effects' with a destination at a storage unit in Bristol. The police replaced the cannabis with individually wrapped bricks of a similar size and weight, and undercover officers drove the shipment to its intended delivery address: a trading estate in Avonmouth, where Malcolm John signed for the delivery and put it in a storage unit that he rented. He was arrested, and his home was searched, as was another storage unit in Swansea (`the Swansea unit') for which he had the keys. The Swansea unit was rented by Malcolm John's son-in-law, the appellant.

  6. No drugs were found in this storage unit. However, a number of other items were discovered that are material to the appeal: (1) a 20-tonne metal press, (2) a blue notebook and (3) various items which, the prosecution said, were drug paraphernalia: a heat sealing machine with traces of cannabis on it, scales, heat re-sealable bags, cling film and twine.

  7. The metal press had traces of cannabis on its metal plates; and the appellant's finger-prints were found on a wooden block associated with the press. The appellant's fingerprints were also found on the inner and outer leaves of the notebook, which contained hand-written entries and loose leaves which, the prosecution said, were the sort of notes or lists which might be kept in cryptographic form by a drug dealer to record sales.

  8. The prosecution case was that Malcom John had arranged for cannabis to be imported into this country from South Africa as part of a conspiracy, whose existence was evidenced by his guilty plea. The case against the appellant was that he was part of the conspiracy, and had received money to facilitate the delivery in October 2013.

  9. By the time of the summing-up the prosecution case consisted of a number of strands. First, the prosecution relied on evidence of bank deposits (just short of £16,000) made by Malcolm John and others into the appellant's bank account between January and October 2013, which (it was said) was payment for the drugs that were imported. Secondly, there was telephone contact between the appellant and Malcolm John (and others) at the time of the money transfers, with the pattern of calls coinciding with payments. Thirdly, the prosecution relied on the appellant's fingerprints on the wooden block and the notebook in the Swansea unit, the equipment with traces of cannabis and other paraphernalia used for the packaging and distribution of drugs. Fourthly, the appellant's previous conviction in November 1995 for importing herbal cannabis into the UK.

  10. The appellant was the subject of a European Arrest Warrant; and as a consequence, he was not interviewed.

  11. The defence amounted to a denial that the appellant had taken any part in any conspiracy to import cannabis; and the issue for the jury was whether he was involved in the conspiracy.

    The rulings

  12. In the course of the trial, the judge made rulings on two applications which are the subject of this appeal. The first ruling (dated 26 January 2016, before the start of the trial) related to the admission of evidence found in the Swansea unit on which the prosecution intended to rely (the press and the notebook); and the second ruling related to the admission of evidence of the appellant's 1995 conviction under the bad character provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (`CJA 2003').

  13. So far...

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