Father jailed for drug smuggling after being threatened by London crime family

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James Edmund Church travelled to the Island with the drugs, which had a street value of up to £170,000, after his family was threatened by the London-based criminals, the Royal Court heard.

Customs officers discovered the cannabis in a hidden compartment between the back seats and boot of his car.

The court heard that Church, who has one previous conviction for drink-driving 14 years ago, had suffered from ill health because of a hereditary condition, which meant he could no longer work. He subsequently got into financial difficulties, leading him to fall into debt with the crime family, who were not named in court.

They told Church that, to repay the debt, he had to smuggle drugs into Jersey.

Despite initially being reluctant to take part in the scheme, Church agreed to travel to Jersey on the premise of a golfing trip after the criminals threatened his family. An examination of Church’s phone showed that he had no Jersey numbers saved on it apart from the hotel he was staying in.

The 59-year-old admitted one count of importing cannabis and was jailed for two years.

Requesting a three-year sentence, Crown Advocate Emma Hollywood, prosecuting, said that the drugs could have had ‘an immeasurable impact’ had they reached the Island.

However, Advocate George Pearce, defending, successfully argued that a three-year term would be too high and pointed to the ‘significant mitigation’ available to Church, including an early guilty plea, his deteriorating health, his lack of previous conviction and the threats that were made to him and his family.

He told the court that despite a ‘difficult childhood’, Church had developed a successful career as a ‘hard-working’ car salesman and was a ‘dedicated father’, but that he had fallen on hard times.

Advocate Pearce said: ‘He was a foot soldier in this operation and a reluctant one at that. He feels that by committing these offences he has let his children down and feels ashamed having committed them.’

Delivering the court’s sentence, the Bailiff, Sir William Bailhache, presiding, told Church that it was ‘not impossible that you were set up for this importation’.

He said: ‘You were not receiving cash payment but were being forgiven a debt that you were due to pay to the family in question.

‘The Crown have taken the view that your explanation is a credible one and that being so, we accept the submission of Advocate Pearce that your level of involvement was not at the highest level.

‘You will appreciate that the Island takes the importation of drugs very seriously, perhaps more seriously than in some other jurisdictions.’

As well as jailing Church for two years, Sir William also ordered the destruction of the drugs.

Jurats Jerry Ramsden and Rozanne Thomas were sitting.

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