Inmate who tried to smuggle £8k of drugs back to prison wins appeal against sentence
An inmate who tried to smuggle up to £8,000 worth of drugs back into prison has won an appeal against his three-year sentence.
Senior judges in Belfast reduced convicted burglar Thomas Samuel Rodgers' term by 12 months based on the principle of totality and delays in the case.
But in what is set to become a guideline ruling, they stressed that deterrent sentences must be imposed on those bringing narcotics into Northern Ireland's jails.
Rodgers, 36, from Rathvarna Drive in Lisburn, was caught returning to HMP Magilligan from a period of home leave in January 2014 after a sniffer dog detected the scent of drugs.
An electronic detector activated as it passed over his buttocks, indicating the presence of something hidden inside his body.
Although initial searches uncovered nothing, warders later found 15 class A fentanyl patches, 90 grams of cannabis resin and just over three grams of herbal cannabis in his cell.
The drugs, rolled up inside toilet paper and a T-shirt, had an estimated value inside prison of between £4,680 to £8,310.
Rodgers told police he had been pressured into smuggling the drugs by others.
At the time he had 90 previous convictions, including 65 counts of burglary, and had been in custody since 2014.
He admitted a series of offences involving the possession of Class A and Class B drugs.
In April last year a judge at Derry Crown Court handed him a three-year sentence, half in custody and half on licence.
She ordered that term to run consecutive to a three and a half-year sentence imposed back in November 2014 for a burglary offence.
Rodgers' lawyers argued that the starting point for the sentencing exercise was too high.
They also claimed there was a culpable delay in bringing the case to court and a failure to take into account the principle of totality.
Ruling on the challenge in the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Weir affirmed that deterrent sentences have to be imposed for smuggling drugs into jail.
"This court does not consider that the four year starting point for these offences and this offender is open to valid criticism," he said.
However, he held there had been no allowance for totality in imposing a consecutive sentence to that handed down for the burglary.
With unexplained delays of at least nine months also identified, the judge ruled that Rodgers should instead serve a two-year term for the drugs offences - half in jail and half on licence.