UK drug trafficker wins case

2010-02-08 00:00

ONE of two Britons who were part of an international drug smuggling ring between South Africa and the United Kingdom has won his appeal against his conviction on a charge of dealing in dagga.

KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Vuka Tshabalala, Judge Pete Koen and Judge Mike Govindasamy ruled that “whatever suspicions there may be”, Tommy MacKinnon (35) was entitled to the benefit of any doubt and ruled that the state has not proved his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt on that charge.

The charge relates to 8,1 tons of dagga exported from South Africa concealed in furniture and seized on arrival at Felixstowe in the UK on September 10, 2006.

However, the judges confirmed MacKinnon’s conviction for dealing in 150 kilograms of cocaine, which was found hidden in a shipment of mirrors seized at a warehouse at Tongaat on October 4, 2006, as well as his sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment for that offence.

MacKinnon’s co-accused, John Tutton, who is almost 60 years old, was granted a reduction in his total sentence from an effective 30 years’ imprisonment to an effective 25 years imprisonment.

Tutton’s convictions in respect of both the dagga and cocaine caches were confirmed.

Concerning the sentences imposed on the men, the judges found that regional magistrate Fred Heuer had not misdirected himself in any way.

Judge Pete Koen said drug trafficking is a serious offence which affects the well-being of a stable and balanced community.

Recently it has become rife and professional syndicates operating internationally exploit the vulnerable, Koen added.

He said there is no doubt that MacKinnon and Tutton were part of an international drug exportation operation from South Africa and that the offences they were convicted of are of a “very significant magnitude”.

They had played an important part in the activities of the syndicate and the desires of Robert Flook, who was found to have masterminded the operation in the UK.

Judge Koen said Tutton and MacKinnon showed no remorse and had not co-operated with the authorities in South Africa or the UK to track down the suppliers of the drugs or expose the network of drug dealers.

Even though Tutton is the older, his involvement had been shown to be more extensive than MacKinnon’s and he deserves more serious punishment, the court found.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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