Informant testifying in drugs trial avoids jail on cannabis rap
A former hotel banqueting manager who is scheduled to give evidence in the trial of an alleged drugs kingpin was yesterday freed on a suspended jail term for conspiring to possess and supply herbal cannabis.
A judge told James Robinson, who was paid up to £800 a month to store drugs, that given his "completely unblemished record", his sentence of six months should be suspended for a period of three years.
Judge Desmond Marrinan said while the 61-year-old was not "forced" into the enterprise, he "succumbed to temptation" after getting into financial trouble. He added he was impressed by his willingness to give evidence.
Robinson, who lived on Carclinty Road, Cullybackey, on the outskirts of Ballymena, is now living in an unknown location in a witness protection scheme.
Judge Marrinan said Robinson's decision to go to police was taken to protect his life after a gun had metaphorically been put to his head after a fallout with his former associate.
His choice, the judge added, was also a "very significant matter" for the defendant, who "expressed remorse and wishes he had not agreed" to store the drugs in the first place.
Earlier, prosecutor Michael Chambers said the circumstances of the case were somewhat unusual, in that a fearful Robinson turned up at Ballymena PSNI station in April last year, telling officers "that he wished to confess to his criminality".
Robinson then outlined to detectives how, for approximately six months, he had been storing drugs for a particular person. Mr Chambers said the defendant explained how he initially resisted approaches from a dealer to keep drugs until he "fell upon hard times financially" and was offered up to £800 a month to keep the illegal goods.
Robinson also reported to police that the dealer would show-up at his home about twice a week, either to pick up drugs or to leave them behind.
The prosecution barrister said that while Robinson did not know the type or quantity of drugs he stored, from his descriptions it would appear they were herbal cannabis and that dozens of kilo bags of the class B drug must have been delivered to his home.
In addition to keeping the illicit goods, Robinson eventually "felt pressurised" into delivering some of them.
Matters came to a head when he returned home one day to find the dealer and another man who accused him of taking missing drugs and ordered him to come up with £25,000 within 24 hours to cover the loss.
Defence barrister Alan Stewart told the court that Robinson had "very frankly" admitted he had agreed to keep the drugs because he "was tempted by the opportunity of financial gain, and he accepts full responsibility for his actions".
Robinson initially refused to become involved, and only did so after he was "financially embarrassed and in debt". Over the period, he was paid around £5,000.
However, added Mr Stewart, the defendant soon "found himself in an invidious position ... and in fear of his life and went to the police".
He has since provided detectives with significant information and has pledged to give evidence against his former associate, the court heard.