TWO heroin suppliers were jailed for almost five years and just over three years respectively when they appeared at courts in Lerwick and Edinburgh this week.
The 57-month sentence imposed on William Fitzgibbon, from Liverpool, is believed to be one of the highest handed down locally by Sheriff Graeme Napier, and follows the tougher action taken recently on drug suppliers targeting the isles.
However, Terence Charles (formerly known as Terry Thomson) was shown more leniency after the judge considered that a seven-year term in prison would have been unjustified given his previous record. He was sent down for 40 months.
Fitzgibbon, 47, a prisoner in Aberdeen, appeared from custody at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday where he was described as a “career criminal”.
He had previously pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of the class A drug on 25th May at the Loch of Vatster, Gott, and elsewhere, acting with Charles.
Fitzgibbon had also admitted trying to hide from police in the undergrowth at Clumlie junction, Boddam, Dunrossness, intending to pervert the course of justice, on the same date.
Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie said two police officers on vehicle patrol had seen the two accused sitting in a stationary Vauxhall Corsa on a single track road at the Loch of Vatster. When police stopped to ask if they were alright they replied yes and immediately accelerated away.
The police followed and by 5pm they reached Boddam, where they later found Fitzgibbon hiding. They found £450 on him and a wrap of heroin in a section of a sock in the footwell of the car.
The police were convinced drugs had been thrown from the car during the pursuit and later found 75 wraps of heroin at Tingwall in the toe section of a sock, found by analysis to be part of the same sock as in the car.
Police then searched the guest house where Fitzgibbon had been staying under a false name and found £2,300 in notes.
The court heard that 76 £20 deals would be worth £1,520, representing a 400 per cent profit on the cost price. Shetland was being specifically targeted because of the high price of drugs.
Defence solicitor Kris Gilmartin said that prior to the offence Fitzgibbon had been living at Ripon Street, Walton, Liverpool.
He had had a chequered employment history but his offending had significantly reduced in recent years.
His partner had incurred drug debts and he was drawn into a drugs syndicate because of threats made to his three children. He had no connection with Shetland but was sent here to collect £3,000. When he had done that he could return and his debt would be cleared.
Sheriff Napier said that Fitzgibbon had admitted being one of a team targeting Shetland, as the money man, the enforcer. He had been involved in violence and dishonesty in the past. The sheriff said he could expect to be dealt with severely, and sentenced him to six years in custody, reduced to 57 months backdated to 26th May because of his early plea of guilty. The drugs and money were ordered to be forfeit.
Meanwhile Charles, 32, appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday where he faced the possibility of a minimum seven-year sentence because it was his third conviction linked to the supply of hard drugs.
Defence advocate Ronnie Renucci, however, persuaded judge Lord Kinclaven to relax the minimum sentence rule.
The lawyer said that in June 2002 Charles had been convicted of supplying the heroin substitute methadone to a man who later died of a drugs overdose.
But, Mr Renucci explained, all that happened was that Charles had shared his own dose of methadone with a friend, and it had not played a part in his death.
Mr Renucci said Charles was not someone who had set out to make a profit from drugs. He was struggling with his own addiction and trying to feed his own habit. That was why he had agreed to act as driver on 25th May – in return for some heroin for himself.
At an earlier hearing Charles, of 145 Sandvien, Lerwick, pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of the drug at Gott, and other places in Shetland.
The court heard then how police chased his Vauxhall Corsa along winding roads after plain clothed officers – acting on a tip-off approached the car parked on a single track road at the Loch of Vatster on a Sunday afternoon.
Charles told them everything was okay, then accelerated away. Pursuing police watched his passenger moving as he did something in the footwell of the car.
Advocate depute David Young, prosecuting, said: “Due to the winding and undulating nature of the road, the police – albeit fleetingly – lost sight of the Vauxhall. After pursuing the Vauxhall at speed for some miles, police lost contact with the car.”
Half an hour later they saw the car again, 10 miles away. Driver Charles, who was alone by then, was taken to Lerwick police station where a search revealed a wrap of heroin under an ashtray.
Jailing Charles, Lord Kinclaven told him he was satisfied that the circumstances of his previous offending would make the imposition of a seven year sentence “unjust.”
? A MAN who allowed his address to be used for delivery of £100,000 of heroin and cocaine escaped prison because of his psychiatric condition when he appeared at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday.
Paul Thomson, 45, of Norstane, Lerwick, admitted being concerned in the supply of heroin and cocaine on or between 27th December and 22nd January.
Defence solicitor Tommy Allan referred to letters from Thomson’s doctor and psychiatric team and said Thomson did not comprehend the offence was as serious as it was.
“He doesn’t seem able to grasp it, that’s my impression,” Mr Allan said.
Sheriff Graeme Napier said that the mental health team had indicated prison could have a devastating effect on Thomson. He told him he could send him to prison for five years and asked him if he could cope with that. Thomson said no.
The sheriff said Thomson had committed a very serious offence by letting himself become part of the chain of supply, which would not happen unless people like him allowed their addresses to be used.
He advised him to choose his friends more carefully and ordered him to do 300 hours of community service, saying that if he failed to carry this out he would be sent to prison. Thomson had only avoided prison this time, he said, because of his “exceptional circumstances”.