A north “drugs mule” caught transporting £15,000 worth of cannabis resin from Alness to Wick has been jailed for 10 months.
Unemployed fisherman Graham Shepherd (28), Roxburgh Road, Wick, was carrying a holdall containing three kilos of the class B drug when stopped by police, a court heard.
A search of a property in which he was staying later uncovered cocaine valued at between £500 to £600.
Shepherd’s lawyer argued that he had been forced to carry the drugs because he owed money to drug dealers. The cocaine was for his personal use.
Shepherd appeared for sentencing at Tain Sheriff Court on Monday, having previously admitted two charges.
He had pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of cannabis resin to another or others on August 9 last year at Milnafua, Alness, on the A9 road between Alness and Tain and at Tain High Street.
He had also admitted on the same day being in possession of cocaine at Kennedy Terrace, Wick.
It emerged that he had just been released from prison two weeks ago after having served a five-month sentence for assault.
Sheriff Eilidh MacDonald turned down a plea not to send Shepherd back to jail and said the case was too serious for a community disposal because of the large amount of drugs involved.
Police, acting on information received, stopped Shepherd at 3.30pm on Tuesday, August 9, last year,
Robert Weir, prosecuting, said: “Mr Shepherd was found to be in possession of a holdall containing six sellotaped blocks which the accused identified as pollen at the time.
“He was detained as being a person suspected of being in possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply and was taken to Inverness police station.
“The blocks that were seized transpired to be cannabis resin. There were just under three kilos with a street value of around £15,000.
“Also seized from Mr Shepherd’s possession was a smaller quantity of white powder. This, on being analysed, was found to be cocaine valued at being between £500 to £600.”
Shepherd initially appeared in private on Wednesday, August 10. He made no plea or declaration and was granted bail.
Defence agent George Mathers said the cocaine had been found at Shepherd’s home address and was for his personal use.
He said his client had had a “chaotic” childhood which resulted in him being placed in foster care.
Mr Mathers continued: “He wanted to join the army and might have been a model soldier but was assaulted at 17 which resulted in surgery – he had to have a kidney removed and was not able to join up.
“Following that he got involved in drugs. Although he has been a drug user, starting with cannabis and later developing a habit for cocaine, he has no previous drugs convictions.”
According to Mr Mathers, Shepherd had built up a drugs debt prior to the August incident and also owed £600 in rent arrears. He was subjected to threats and pressure for repayment.
The lawyer continued: “On August 8, Mr Shepherd received a text from a friend asking if he would go down to Alness to collect this (the cannabis) and he would be paid £200. He was given instruction as to where to go.
“But he was intercepted and has not been paid. So, for the sake of obtaining £200 he finds himself in this position. Acting as a mule, he took cannabis from Alness to Wick. He got nothing out of it – he even had to pay for his own bus ticket.”
The lawyer said that thanks to the prison sentence Shepherd had just served, he no longer had a cocaine addition. He had also received medication for depression while in prison.
Mr Mathers asked that Shepherd be given a community payback order and said he would lose his council house tenancy if he did not live there for more than six months.
He said: “Mr Shepherd seems to have got over his drugs problem and is motivated to stop behaving in this manner. Rather than send him back to custody, I ask that he be given a community disposal – when given probation before, he did not breach it.”
But Sheriff Macdonald told Shepherd: “I have heard what your solicitor has said on your behalf but I have no option other than to impose a custodial sentence given the amount of drugs involved and the serious nature of the charge.”