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Ex-cop hands over £40,000 to secure bail for drug rap son

By Alan Erwin

Published 28/07/2016

Mr Justice Horner, sitting at the High Court, imposed the surety as a condition of 37-year-old Co Antrim man John Ian Semple's release from custody
Mr Justice Horner, sitting at the High Court, imposed the surety as a condition of 37-year-old Co Antrim man John Ian Semple's release from custody

A retired police officer yesterday lodged £40,000 to secure bail for his son on charges of importing cannabis into Northern Ireland from Amsterdam.

Mr Justice Horner, sitting at the High Court, imposed the surety as a condition of 37-year-old Co Antrim man John Ian Semple's release from custody.

The defendant is allegedly linked to the posting of £60,000 of drugs to Northern Ireland from Amsterdam, which he is said to have visited twice a month over a two-year period.

Following his arrest at Belfast International Airport in February, Semple claimed he travelled to Holland to send back cheese.

The accused, from Ballycregagh Road in Clough, near Ballymena, faces charges of fraudulently importing Class B drugs, being concerned in the supply of cannabis, and converting criminal property.

The court heard he was subjected to surveillance as part of an operation by the PSNI and Dutch police.

Prosecution counsel Michael Chambers said the investigation was launched after 2kg of 'skunk' herbal cannabis was posted to an associate of Semple's in March last year.

The drugs, which has an estimated street value of £40,000, were sent in vacuum-sealed packages from the Netherlands.

Inquiries with Easyjet confirmed that Semple was in Amsterdam on a two-day trip at the same time, according to Mr Chambers. It was also claimed the accused's fingerprint was found on an envelope inside the packages.

Further checks with the airline revealed he had been travelling from Belfast to Amsterdam twice a month for one-night stays since 2014, with more bookings until earlier this year.

In January, Dutch police allegedly observed him at a rail station posting a package to an address in Ballyclare, the court was told.

The parcel, later intercepted by the PSNI at a Royal Mail sorting office, contained a kilo of herbal cannabis worth an estimated £20,000.

Defence counsel Gavin Cairns argued that his client had handed in his British and Irish passports, easing any concerns he could flee.

Mr Cairns revealed that Semple's father, a former police officer, was prepared to put up a "vast" amount of cash to secure his son's release.

Granting bail on tight conditions, Mr Justice Horner held there had been a change in circumstances, but warned any breach of the release terms could result in the forfeit of the money.

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