Belfast Telegraph

Man jailed after undercover police probe into cocaine supply in Co Down to be freed as 'act of mercy'

By Alan Erwin

A man jailed after being caught in an undercover police operation into the supply of cocaine in a Co Down town is to be freed as an act of mercy, the Court of Appeal ruled today.

Senior judges decided to impose a new suspended prison term on Philip Reid after being told he has suffered from a serious medical condition behind bars.

The 26-year-old has also been hit by three family bereavements, losing his father and brother in road accidents and his mother through illness.

Allowing his appeal against the original 14-month sentence, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said a case had been out for the exercise of mercy.

But he dismissed challenges to terms imposed on two co-defendants over their roles in selling cocaine at bars in Newtownards between December 2014 and May 2015.

John Clements, 32, formerly of Priory Avenue in the town, had been sentenced to four years and four months, half in custody and half on licence, after admitting involvement in the supply of Class A drugs.

Scott McClure, 28, from Hampden Grove in the town, received a two years and two month term - half of which is to be served in jail.

All three men were convicted based on an operation where a policewoman went undercover in a bid to purchase cocaine in local pubs.

Ruling on the appeals against sentence, Sir Declan, sitting with Lord Justice Weir and Mr Justice Colton, held that Clements and McClure were more heavily involved.

Rejecting any suggestion of entrapment in the case, the Lord Chief Justice said: "Where the circumstances display the people involved are well-versed in criminality it's quite apparent in the authorities that no mitigation of any sort should be allowed."

Reid, of Shackleton Walk in Newtownards, was described as a go-between who introduced the officer to one of his co-accused.

His barrister urged the court to show mercy and release him from the jail term imposed after he pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of the drugs.

It was revealed that during his time in custody Reid has spent four weeks in hospital due to dietary issues.

Counsel also stressed that he has been coping with "a triple bereavement" in recent years.

Granting Reid's appeal, Sir Declan said he had been troubled by his circumstances and acknowledged his lower level in the drugs trade.

The judge confirmed that a new 12-month suspended term would be put in place, but warned him that any further offending would see him returned to prison.

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