A heroin dealer who claimed he was forced at gunpoint to smuggle drugs with an estimated street value of £20,000 into Shetland was jailed for 40 months today.
Simon McDonald, 37, of Garthdee Road in Aberdeen, had nine packages of the class A drug, weighing 140.5 grammes, forcibly concealed inside his body.
Lerwick Sheriff Court heard McDonald was ordered to board the NorthLink ferry and not return from the isles until all the drugs were sold. However police received a tip-off and arrested him at the ferry terminal.
McDonald admitted supplying diamorphine on 21st October last year.
The court was told McDonald had been befriended by a Liverpudlian who had provided him with money to help with household expenditures and had also given him heroin.
He told police under interview the nature of the man, known only as “John”, had changed. The Liverpudlian had become threatening, indicating McDonald was now indebted to him.
To appease him McDonald would have to take drugs to Shetland, for which he would be paid £1,000.
“John” met McDonald in October and gave him the nine packages, instructing him who to meet in Lerwick and ordering him not to return to Aberdeen until all the drugs were sold. Police in Lerwick acted on their intelligence however and arrested him.
A strip search proved negative, but McDonald agreed to undergo a medical examination. He admitted he had the packages concealed within his system, insisting he was in pain as a result.
Defence agent Alex Burn said McDonald had almost passed out after being “man-handled” into his bathroom to have the packages inserted into him at gunpoint.
But he accepted he had not been coerced in the strict legal sense, adding he would have been able to seek help on the ferry, although he was told he was being watched.
“It was an excruciating experience for him. He co-operated with officers and made a full admission to the police. Officers were sympathetic to his position.
“Twenty-thousand pounds [the value of the drugs] is going to get him a jail term, and he knows that will be visited upon him today as a consequence of this offending.”
Sheriff Graeme Napier told McDonald: “You haven’t appeared in this court before, more than in private, so you’ll not have heard the view I have expressed on occasions when people … come to these islands to make money out of those residents in Shetland persuaded to get involved in this life-wasting enterprise of taking heroin.
“This is one of the largest amounts of heroin I have dealt with.”
He took into account steps McDonald had taken to deal with his own drug problem, and the “element of coercion” that had brought him onto the ferry.
He reduced the sentence from a starting-off point of five years.