Thomas Joan, aged 28, was a drug dealer. He handed himself in to police, after his partner died giving birth to their stillborn baby.
BBC News reported that Joan had told officers he had had enough of being in a ‘criminal cycle’ selling class A drugs.
It was also reported that Joan did not want police bail as he feared he would kill himself.
The BBC reported that Joan pleaded guilty to possession of heroin with intent to supply, ‘shoplifting’ (theft) and criminal damage, reportedly to a CCTV cabinet.
When Joan handed himself into the police, he also surrendered 10 wraps of heroin. During a police interview, he admitted that he had earned £300 per week commission from selling to 30 regular customers.
It was claimed that Joan had been forced into dealing (it is common for dealers to claim this as it lessens their role in the organisation and therefore reduces the eventual sentence they are given).
Andrew Morton, defending Joan said that he had taken “an exceptional course following a personal tragedy just weeks before. He has demonstrated an understanding of his own weaknesses and is motivated to address his drug problem.”
The reference to a drug problem is another common tactic used by offenders and their counsel; by claiming that the offender has a drug problem, some believe that the culpability is lessened as the motive to drug deal is driven by an addiction for which treatment is necessary, as opposed to a purely financial motive, which indicates greater sophistication and potentially planning.
Morton, defending, asked the Judge to sentence Joan to a non-custodial sentence – BBC news says a ‘a drug treatment programme in the community’ but it is unclear whether this was a community order or a suspended sentence (which can contain requirements such as drug treatment or unpaid work).
Judge Richard Foster told Joan: “Unusually, you handed yourself in, but this was not just one day, you had been dealing for four or five months.
“You know the misery Class A drugs cause and you were prepared to inflict that misery upon others.
“You do need help but you will get that in custody and it should carry on when you are released on licence.”
He was imprisoned for 2 years.
With full credit for his guilty plea (which seems to be highly likely), and personal mitigation in the form of the recent deaths of his wife and child, and the fact that he handed himself in, the sentence would have started at around 3.5 years +. It is a shame that we don’t know at what level the Judge started, because it would have been interesting to know what level of discount the Judge gave for the unusual nature of Joan’s arrest and personal circumstances. In my view it is clear that it amounts to significant personal mitigation.
Translating this case into the guidelines is difficult as we don’t know what role the Judge found that Joan had played. Further, we are unclear on the amount of drugs that Joan admitted he supplied. However, it seems unlikely that this would be less than half a kilo, which would place him at the bottom of category 2.
We are similarly left in the dark about his previous convictions; in drug supply cases, this can be a very important factor. No previous convictions (or no drug convictions at least) can provide ample scope to suggest that the offences were a ‘one off’ and an error of judgement. A string of previous for drug supply means more likely than not you are going to get hammered.