A former drugs ‘storeman’ who turned informer was today (Friday) freed on a suspended jail term for conspiring to possess and supply Herbal Cannabis.
Judge Desmond Marrinan told 61-year-old James Robinson, who was paid up to £800 a month to store drugs, that given his “completely unblemished record” his sentence of six months would be suspended for a period of three years.
Robinson, who had lived at Carclinty Road, Cullybackey is now in hiding on a witness protection scheme, operated under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act of 2005.
Judge Marrian said Robinson’s decision to go to police was, ‘to put it bluntly’ to protect his life after a gun had ‘metaphorically’ been put to his head after a fallout with his former associate, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
His decision, the judge added was also a ‘very significant matter’ for Robinson who has “expressed remorse’.
Earlier prosecutor Michael Chambers told the court the circumstances of the case. He said that a ‘fearful’ Robinson turned up at Ballymena PSNI station in April last year, and outlined to detectives how, for about six months, he had been storing drugs for a man.
Mr Chambers said Robinson explained how he initially resisted approaches from a dealer to keep drugs, until he ‘fell upon hard times financially’, and was offered up to £800 a month to keep the drugs. Robinson reported to police that the dealer would show-up at his home about twice a week, either to collect or leave drugs.
The prosecution barrister said while Robinson did not know the type or quanity of drugs, from his descriptions it would appear they were Herbal Cannabis and that dozens of kilo bags of the Class B drug must have been delivered to his home. In addition to keeping the drugs, Robinson eventually ‘felt pressurised’ into delivering some of them.
‘However, matters came to a head when he returned home one day to find the dealer and another man, who accused him of taking drugs which were missing and ordered to come-up with £25,000 within 24 hours to cover the loss.
Defence barrister Alan Stewart said that Robinson had ‘very frankly’ admitted he’d agreed to keep the drugs because he was tempted by the opportunity of financial gain.
“He accepts full responsibility for his actions,” said Mr. Stewart.
Robinson had initially refused to become involved, and only did so after he was ‘financially embarrassed and in debt’ and over the period was paid around £5000 in total. However, added Mr Stewart, Robinson soon ‘found himself in an invidious position... and in fear of his life and went to the police.”
The lawyer said that Robinson, who, it was agreed, deserved subtantial credit above and beyond that normally given for a guilty plea, had now ‘put himself at risk’ and was in a witness protection scheme, since providing police with significant information, and had pledged to give evidence against his former associate.