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Ex-Stephen Lawrence murder suspect ‘should repay £960,000 over cannabis plot’

Neil Acourt was said to have been the ‘man at the top’ of a two-year conspiracy.

A former suspect in the murder of Stephen Lawrence should repay £960,000 reaped from a lucrative cannabis plot, a court has heard.

Neil Acourt was jailed for six years and three months last February for conspiracy to supply Class B drugs as part of a criminal network.

He was said to have been the “man at the top” of a two-year conspiracy which involved dozens of 600-mile round trips from London to the South Shields area, ferrying drugs up and taking cash back.

The 42-year-old, of Eltham, south-east London, was arrested in relation to the racist attack on 18-year-old Mr Lawrence, who was stabbed to death by a gang of white men at a bus stop in Eltham in 1993.

But the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) formally discontinued the case against him after a meeting with the senior investigating officer.

Acourt, a father of one who is also known as Neil Stuart, was due to appear for a confiscation hearing at Kingston Crown Court on Thursday.

Before his arrival, prosecutor Sarah Przybylska told the court that Acourt and two of his co-defendants were liable for the estimated £960,000 value of the plot and should each have to pay that full amount.

She said: “This was a two-year conspiracy to supply cannabis.

“Two hundred kilos were seized across two shipments, there were 37 journeys during the course of this conspiracy that was movement between London and South Shields that the prosecution say was for the movement of drugs and money.”

The defence accepted that there “must have been” more than 200 kilos of cannabis moved during this time, she added.

“The proposed figure now is 12 shipments over the course of two years, 80 kilos per shipment, giving a total of 960 kilos at £1,000 per kilo, resulting in a value of £960,000,” she said.

Lawyers for the defendants suggested the figure was speculation and asked Judge Susan Tapping to make a lower valuation.

Acourt’s childhood friend, James Botton, 46, of Greenwich, south-east London, and father-in-law Jack Vose, 64, of Bexley, Kent, were each jailed for four years and nine months over the plot.

Both were said to currently have £1 to their names and should be ordered to pay £960,000 each.

Daniel Thompson, 30, of South Shields, Tyne and Wear, was jailed for four years and two months.

It was agreed he should repay 11 months worth of the two-year conspiracy, matching the time of his involvement, when the figure is eventually settled.

He was said to have £25,457.97 to his name.

All previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply a Class B drug between January 2014 and February 2016.

In 2012, Gary Dobson and David Norris were convicted at the Old Bailey of murdering Mr Lawrence and jailed for life.

Norris and Acourt were jailed for 18 months in 2002 for a racist attack on off-duty black policeman Gareth Reid.

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