Ex-police officer lodges £40,000 for son’s bail on drugs charges

Semple was arrested at Belfast International Airport in February
Semple was arrested at Belfast International Airport in February

A retired police officer must lodge £40,000 to secure bail for his son on charges of importing consignments of cannabis during multiple trips to Amsterdam, a High Court judge has ordered.

Mr Justice Horner imposed the cash surety as a condition of 37-year-old Co Antrim man John Ian Semple’s release from custody.

Semple is allegedly linked to the posting of £60,000 worth of drugs to Northern Ireland as part of a monthly travel itinerary spanning two years.

Following his arrest at Belfast International Airport in February he claimed he only went to Holland to send back cheese, prosecutors disclosed.

The accused, of Ballycregagh Road in Clough, near Ballymena, faces charges of fraudulently importing Class B drugs, being concerned in the supply of cannabis, and converting criminal property.

The court heard he was subjected to surveillance as part of a joint operation between the PSNI and Dutch police.

Prosecution counsel Michael Chambers said the investigation began after 2kg of “skunk” herbal cannabis was posted to an associate of Semple’s in March last year.

The drugs, with an estimated street value of £40,000, were sent in vacuum-sealed packages from the Netherlands.

Inquiries with Easyjet confirmed Semple was in Amsterdam on a two-day trip at the same time, according to Mr Chambers.

It was also claimed the accused’s fingerprint was found on an envelope inside the packages.

Further checks with the airline revealed he had been travelling from Belfast to Amsterdam twice a month for one-night stays since 2014, with more bookings until later this year.

In January Dutch police allegedly observed him at a rail station posting a package to an address in Ballyclare, the court heard.

Intercepted by the PSNI at a Royal Mail sorting office, the parcel contained another kilo of herbal cannabis worth an estimated £20,000.

Semple was stopped and detained on February 2 as he was about to board another flight to Amsterdam.

Police searched him and seized a broken down cardboard box, packaging tape and more than €500 in cash.

Vacuum sealed bags and £1,000 in cash was later recovered from an address linked to him.

Mr Chambers continued: “He accepted that he did regularly travel to Amsterdam, but said he did so to post cheese to his friends.”

Defence counsel Gavin Cairns argued that his client has now handed in his British and Irish passports – easing any concerns he could flee.

Mr Cairns also revealed that Semple’s father, a former police officer, was now prepared to put up a “vast” amount of cash to secure his release.

Granting bail on tight conditions, Mr Justice Horner held there had been a change in circumstances.

He said: “The passports of the applicant have been surrendered, and there’s a cash surety of £40,000 offered by his father, a retired custody sergeant.”

The judge warned that any breach of the release terms could result in the money being forfeited.