Judges reject plea to cut drugs sentence

A man who allowed his Ipswich flat to be used as a storage and distribution centre for hard drugs has failed in a challenge to his prison term.

IPSWICH: A man who allowed his Ipswich flat to be used as a storage and distribution centre for hard drugs has failed in a challenge to his prison term.

Wesley Allen, 25, of Queens Grove Road, Chingford, Essex, was jailed at Ipswich Crown Court for four years and eight months last July after admitting permitting premises to be used for supplying cocaine and heroin.

Allen had taken a lease on a flat above an antiques shop in St Margaret's Green to live with his fianc�e, but allowed associates to turn it into the centre of a drugs ring.

He appealed against his sentence yesterday, but had his case rejected by Lord Justice Pitchford, Mr Justice Owen and Judge Peter Beaumont QC at the Court of Appeal.

Visibly upset in the dock after his appeal was dismissed, Allen demanded to be heard by the court and cried out: "It's not fair. I wasn't selling drugs."

His lawyers had argued before the three judges that it was wrong that Allen, who had only allowed his premises to be used, received the same sentence as those who actually sold drugs.

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Kevin Okorah, Andrew Shirley and Nixon Apire all received the same jail terms after admitting various roles in drugs supply, while Jon Mullan received 30 months and Shabaz Masih 50 months for similar offences.

But Mr Justice Owen, rejecting the argument, said there was ample evidence on which the sentencing judge could conclude that he deserved the same sentence.

"In our judgment, the learned judge was fully justified in assessing the appellant's level of involvement as comparable with Okorah, Shirley and Apire," he told the court.

"The use of the property was central to the operation. It was, in effect, the distribution centre.

"Furthermore, the appellant's fingerprints were found on one of the wraps of cocaine, evidence that served to undermine the contention that his was a purely passive role.

"It follows that, in our judgment, the sentence passed on the appellant cannot be said to be manifestly excessive."

Do you think the sentence was fair? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

The court case:

The gang of London criminals - known as the James Business - ran a lucrative drug dealing operation from Allen's Ipswich flat.

When the six members were sentenced to jail terms totalling more than 25 years at Ipswich Crown Court, Allen threatened security staff and the detective who led the investigation.

The gang - the majority of whom already had violent criminal histories - used the flat in St Margaret's Green to cut, weigh and package heroin and crack cocaine ready for distribution to street dealers, who in turn peddled the drugs to addicts in the town.

Drugs cops in Ipswich - who launched a crackdown on London dealers touting their wares in Suffolk more than two-and-a-half years ago - first became aware of the James Business after spotting two of the group supplying heroin to a drug user in autumn 2008.

A covert investigation - Operation Candour - was subsequently launched which quickly uncovered the gang's base and the identity of its members.