Smuggling case against drug mule, 13, dropped
By The Guardian – Sept 18 2002
Copyright: The Guardian
The case against a 13-year-old girl thought to be Britain’s youngest drugs mule collapsed yesterday when a court heard that she was “more sinned against than sinning”.
The teenager from Bradford, West Yorkshire, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was arrested at Manchester airport in April after stepping off a flight from Pakistan with 11kg of heroin – with an estimated street value of £900,000 -concealed in six cushions and a black leather jacket in her luggage.
She was due to be tried at Manchester crown court on a charge of drug smuggling, but the prosecution said it would be inappropriate to continue the proceedings against her and offered no evidence. A formal verdict of not guilty was recorded.
The prosecutor, James Rae, told the court: “There is no doubt that when this child was stopped by an officer of HM customs and excise at Manchester airport on April 8 2002 she appeared to be travelling alone on a flight from Pakistan.
“Her luggage was found to contain six cushions and a black leather jacket. On examination, each of the cushions and the leather jacket were found to have been adapted in such a way as to conceal a substantial quantity of brown powder in heat sealed plastic bags.”
The total weight of the powder was 11.21kg, with an average purity of between 56% and 62%. Overall, it was equivalent to 6.66kg of 100% pure diamorphine.
Mr Rae said that customs and excise had been gravely concerned as to how these drugs came into her luggage and had never thought she was importing them on her own account.
The defence statement, issued last month, raised the defence of duress and it had been up to the crown to rebut this claim.
But Mr Rae said: “It has become quite apparent from those inquiries that this child is more sinned against than sinning.
“Allegations that she has made, point in the direction of someone with a parental role in her life – albeit most definitely not her natural father or any current associate of his.”
He said the crown had been gravely concerned that any person with a parental role should be allowed to use their child in this way and that criminal responsibility should be evaded, but it would be wrong to penalise the child.
“In this case it has become patently clear that this child has been a victim to a significant degree, such that will have justified her to have had a genuine fear of some of those around her, who had – or should have had – a responsibility for her moral and physical care.
“The tragic reality of this case is that the more the crown have learned of this child’s background and family circumstances, the more evident it has become that we would never begin to persuade a jury that she could not rely upon the defence of duress.”
He said it was right that she should leave the court with no stigma attached to her character.
Peter Wright QC, defending, said the girl remained in the care of a local authority and in secure accommodation. Legal proceedings will determine her future.
After the hearing, a spokesman for customs and excise said that it abided by the principle outlined in the code for crown prosecutors in deciding whether or not to prosecute a case.
“Under the code a case must pass two tests; first we must consider whether there is sufficient evidence to give a realistic prospect of conviction. And, if there is, we must secondly consider whether it is in the public interest to prosecute.
“Having made a decision to prosecute, cases are kept under constant review as circumstances change. If at any point a case no longer satisfies the two tests then we will not proceed with the prosecution.”
He added that, if further evidence came to light, the case could be reopened.
After the hearing, the girl’s mother said: “Somebody has put her up to this. Somebody has used her.”