Race-hate mur­der sus­pect jailed for drugs plot

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - Uk & World News - JOE GAMMIE Press As­so­ci­a­tion

AMAN who was sus­pected in the racist mur­der of Stephen Lawrence has been jailed for nine years for head­ing a £3 mil­lion drugs plot.

Jamie Acourt, 42, from Eltham, south-east Lon­don, pleaded guilty at Kingston Crown Court on Thurs­day to be­ing a king­pin in the twoyear con­spir­acy to sell cannabis resin.

His 43-year-old brother Neil Acourt has al­ready been jailed for more than six years over the scheme which moved about 750kg of the drug with an es­ti­mated street value of around £3 mil­lion.

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 both were ring­leaders who en­listed fam­ily mem­bers to the scheme that saw drugs trans­ported be­tween Lon­don and South Shields, Tyne and Wear.

Jail­ing Jamie Acourt on Fri­day Judge Peter Lod­der QC said he was clearly a ring­leader of the con­spir­acy

Judge Lod­der said: “That you played a lead­ing role is be­yond doubt.

“I have been urged to bear in mind that fol­low­ing the ar­rest of (Darren) Woods you with­drew from the con­spir­acy and that the con­spir­acy con­tin­ued with­out ap­point­ing a new leader, suggest­ing your role was not cru­cial.

“I must, how­ever, ob­serve that the sys­tem was well es­tab­lished by that stage.”

Judge Lod­der said that al­though Neil Acourt had been con­victed in con­nec­tion to a greater amount of cannabis, he would not use his sen­tence as a benchmark.

He did give Jamie Acourt a 10% dis­count de­spite him plead­ing guilty af­ter the jury was sworn in and the pro­ceed­ings were un­der way.

He added: “I make clear my view that the points se­lected by the recorder in that ex­er­cise do not ad­e­quately re­flect the crim­i­nal­ity for which I have to pass sen­tence.

“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.”

Both Acourts were ar­rested af­ter the racist stab­bing of black teenager Mr Lawrence by a gang of white men in Eltham in 1993, but have al­ways de­nied in­volve­ment.

Ju­rors were ear­lier told of the his­tor­i­cal al­le­ga­tion and warned they. should solely con­sider the drug trial ev­i­dence.

Jamie Acourt, ap­pear­ing in court sport­ing a man bun and beard, 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 ba­sis of his plea was that it was agreed with the pros­e­cu­tion he was in­volved in the con­spir­acy to sup­ply be­tween Jan­uary 1 2014 and May 2 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 May 4 this year and ex­tra­dited to Bri­tain.

His brother was sen­tenced to six years and three months in Fe­bru­ary last year over the same con­spir­acy.

Recorder Paul Cle­ments sug­gested one of Neil Acourt’s problems was that he had “heard too much neg­a­tiv­ity about you and be­gun to be­lieve the neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity about you”.

The plot, he added, 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 £2.2 mil­lion.

Michael Holland, de­fend­ing, 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.

The case against Mr Woods was dis­missed.

In 2012, Gary Dob­son and David Nor­ris were con­victed at the Old Bai­ley of mur­der­ing Mr Lawrence and jailed for life.

Both Acourts were ar­rested shortly af­ter the mur­der but nei­ther was con­victed.

Jamie Acourt has been jailed for nine years for head­ing a £3m drugs plot

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