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Judge warns drug trade workers to expect long sentences

Laganside Court in Belfast

A judge has warned that those involved in the drugs trade, "filling our community with drugs" must expect ever increasing lengthy prison sentences.

The warning came from Judge Patricia Smyth as she sentenced 41-year-old lorry driver, Paul James Hamill to three years after he was caught tranporting cannabis in February last year shortly after getting off the Larne ferry. In addition to those drugs Hamill told police of a lock-up where they uncovered a haul of more cannabis and 'speed'.

The Belfast Crown Court judge said it was accepted that the drugs had a potential street value of between £600,000 and £900,000, although Hamill, from Limefield Road, Moyraverty in Craigavon, was neither the owner nor beneficiary of the drugs.

It appeared that Hamill, who has young children, was specifically targeted because he was a lorry driver and "took the offer of easy money when offered the opportunity from those higher up the chain".

Judge Smyth said while she accepted that Hamill was "deeply regretful and remorseful", she told him that he had "played a role" in the drugs' culture, in which "children and young adults, children like yours, are dying because of the drugs culture".

She added that the lives of some victims were "blighted by ill health", robbing them of meaningful lives, and that the courts, almost daily, saw the affect that culture has had on others.

However, Judge Smyth accepted that in Hamill's case, he was entitled to maximum credit for his guilty pleas and for alerting police to the lock-up of which they knew nothing.

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