Stephen Lawrence mur­der sus­pect gets nine-year jail sen­tence for £3m drug plot

The Guardian - - NEWS - Matthew Weaver and agen­cies

A man who was sus­pected in the racist mur­der of Stephen Lawrence has been jailed for nine years for lead­ing a £3m drugs plot.

Jamie Acourt, 42, orig­i­nally from Eltham, south-east Lon­don, pleaded guilty at Kingston crown court on Thurs­day to be­ing the ring­leader of a two-year con­spir­acy to sup­ply and sell cannabis resin.

His 43-year-old brother, Neil Acourt, has al­ready been jailed over the scheme, which moved about 750kg of the drug with an es­ti­mated street value of £3m.

Jamie Acourt spent more than two years on the run, liv­ing in Spain un­der the alias Si­mon Al­fonzo, un­til his ar­rest in May. Pros­e­cu­tors be­lieve the broth­ers en­listed fam­ily mem­bers to a scheme that in­volved fer­ry­ing drugs be­tween Lon­don and South Shields, Tyne and Wear.

Jail­ing Acourt yesterday, Judge Peter Lod­der QC said it was be­yond doubt that he “played a lead­ing role” in the plot.

Judge Lod­der said that al­though Neil Acourt had been con­victed in con­nec­tion with a greater amount of cannabis, he would not use the sen­tence he re­ceived of six years and three months as a benchmark.

He jailed Jamie Acourt for nine years, in­clud­ing only a 10% dis­count, even though he pleaded guilty once the jury had been sworn in.

He said: “This may ap­pear to be un­fair, but in my judg­ment the ap­pro­pri­ate sen­tence should not be re­duced sim­ply to demon­strate par­ity with the le­niency shown to those co-con­spir­a­tors. That is not the proper ex­er­cise of jus­tice.”

The Acourt broth­ers were ar­rested af­ter the racist stab­bing of Lawrence by a gang of white men in Eltham in 1993, but have al­ways de­nied in­volve­ment. The ju­rors were told of the his­tor­i­cal al­le­ga­tion and warned they should solely con­sider the drug trial ev­i­dence.

In court Acourt ap­peared bearded and with his hair tied in a bun. He had de­nied con­spir­acy to sup­ply a class B drug be­tween Jan­uary 2014 and Fe­bru­ary 2016, but changed his plea af­ter the pros­e­cu­tion opened its case.

The plea ac­cepted he was in­volved in the con­spir­acy to sup­ply be­tween Jan­uary 2014 and May 2015. He fled the coun­try af­ter po­lice raided a home he lived in with his partner and their two chil­dren in Bex­ley, south-east Lon­don, in Fe­bru­ary 2016.

He was ar­rested by armed of­fi­cers as he left a gym in Barcelona on 4 May this year and ex­tra­dited to Bri­tain.

When Neil Acourt was sen­tenced in Fe­bru­ary, Recorder Paul Cle­ments said the plot would “have kept the peo­ple of the New­cas­tle area in spliffs for many a long day”.

It in­volved dozens of 600-mile round trips from Lon­don to South Shields, driv­ing drugs up and bring­ing back cash.

The court heard the deal­ers moved more than 750kg, with the pros­e­cu­tion say­ing Jamie Acourt was in­volved in the sup­ply of about 500kg with a street value of about £2.2m.

Michael Holland, for the de­fence, said this amounted to about £500,000 at whole­sale. He added: “It’s a mit­i­gat­ing fac­tor he with­drew from the con­spir­acy, al­beit in cir­cum­stances where one of the co-con­spir­a­tors has re­cently been ar­rested.

“He is a trades­man and builder and has sought con­tracts, some of which he has been suc­cess­ful in at­tain­ing. With his name it is not al­ways easy to get the work he might other­wise get. The fi­nan­cial temp­ta­tion must have been a real fac­tor.”

Seven men have now been con­victed or found guilty over the con­spir­acy. They in­clude the step­fa­ther of Jamie Acourt’s partner, Lee Birks, 57, of Or­p­ing­ton, south-east Lon­don, and Neil Acourt’s 65-year-old fatherin-law, Jack Vose, of Bex­ley.

In 2012, Gary Dob­son and David Nor­ris were con­victed at the Old Bai­ley of mur­der­ing Lawrence and jailed for life. Both Acourts were ar­rested shortly af­ter the mur­der, but nei­ther was con­victed.

▲ Jamie Acourt spent more than two years on the run, liv­ing in Spain

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