City judges to decide fate of Brit traffickers

2010-01-27 00:00

THREE Pietermaritzburg high court judges will determine the ultimate fate of British drug traffickers John Tutton (57) and Tommy MacKinnon (35), who are appealing against their effective 30-yea­r jail sentences.

KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Vuka Tshabala, Judge Pete Koen and Judge M. Govindasamy yesterday reserved judgment.

Besides his appeal against sentence, MacKinnon is also challenging his conviction on one count of dealing in 8,1 tons of compressed dagga.

The cannabis was seized on arrival in the British port of Felixstowe on September 10, 2006.

MacKinnon’s appeal against conviction on that charge is based on submissions that there was no evidence linking him to the exportation of the dagga from South Africa, as he was not even in the country at the time it was loaded and shipped out from Durban harbour during August that year.

According to evidence given at the trial, MacKinnon was on holiday in Tunisia at that time.

Each of the men was found guilty by regional court magistrate Fred Heuer in Camperdown of dealing in the 8,1 tons of dagga hidden in a shipment of furniture.

The dagga was loaded in Pinetown, taken to Durban harbour, and then shipped to Felixstowe harbour in the UK.

They were also found guilty of dealing in 150 kg of cocaine, which was concealed in a shipment of mirrors in a warehouse under the accuseds’ control at Tongaat on October 4, 2006.

An Umhlanga-based shop fitter, Ernie Smith, a third accused, was acquitted of the charges.

The street value of the cocaine was estimated at R200 million by police sources.

The mastermind behind the international drug smuggling operation, Robert Flook of Britain, was sentenced in the UK to an effective 26 years’ imprisonment on char­ges of conspiracy to supply cannabis and cocaine.

The sentences that Heuer imposed on Tutton and MacKinnon in December 2007 were hailed at the time as the heaviest seen in South Africa for similar offences.

However, the magnitude of the crimes was also one of the greatest ever in this country.

The appeal by Tutton and MacKinnon against their senten­ces is based on a submission that they are so severe as to induce a sense of shock.

In Tutton’s case, it is argued that he is nearing 60 years of age and the effective sentence will ensure he remains in custody for the rest of his life.

Heuer ordered that the two must serve at least 15 years of the jail term before they can be considered for release on parole.

“The sentence is, in effect, more severe than that handed out to a cold-blooded, brutal murderer,” it is submitted in court papers.

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