Staffordshire locals have expressed their disappointment at the criminal justice system this week after a taxi driver found transporting £4 million worth of heroin was sentenced to under five years in prison.
Barry Smith, of Keston Walk, Halewood, appeared in Stafford Crown Court for his sentencing on 12th February after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing. The 44-year-old was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison.
But comments on Staffordshire Police’s social media pages, where the case is detailed, reveal that the general public is unimpressed and shocked by the sentencing.
One Facebook user, from Stoke-on-Trent, was unconvinced that the sentencing would act as a deterrent to other criminals and wrote: “4 years? Joke! How will the courts deter drug trafficking with these silly sentences?”
Another person, from Newcastle-under-Lyme, agreed, commenting: “You can see why people take these risks to make money when you only get four years if caught!”
Another comment said: “Pathetic sentence, absolutely pathetic… Shame on the criminal justice system… Doesn’t act as a deterrent when the financial rewards of drug dealing far outweigh the punishment if caught.”
Some members of the general public lashed out at Staffordshire Police about the jail term.
Commenting on Staffordshire Police’s Facebook post, one person said: “I’d be embarassed publishing that sentence. What a disgrace.”
While another said: “What a b****y joke. I bet he doesn’t do two years and they say crime doesn’t pay. If I was the police I don’t think I would be bragging about it.”
Others thanked the Force for their hard work and blamed the courts for the sentencing.
A Facebook user said: “The jail term is an insult to the police who do the hard work to get these criminals off the street.”
One person congratulated the Force for their efforts: “Well done for catching him, Staffordshire Police. The court should be ashamed of themselves.”
Many people felt that the drugs trafficker should have received a sentence at least doubly as long.
One person commented: “Should have got double, there’s no excuse for it.”
Another Facebook user’s comment agreed: “Would have thought that he would get at least 7 to 8 years!”
The public was also concerned that it wouldn’t be long until Smith would be released from prison and some even speculated that it was likely the taxi driver would continue to be criminally involved in drugs.
A comment from a person from Burton-upon-Trent said: “The sentence is way too lenient. Smith will be out in a year or so and no doubt will still be dealing inside [prison].
“No wonder criminals continue as they do. There are no deterrent and, let’s face it, prison is hardly a sentence these days – they have more luxuries in life than hard-working people on the outside.”
Some comments also commented on the possibility that Smith could be released early for good behaviour.
Detective Constable Neil Johnson, of Staffordshire Police, said: “This is a warning to those who think they can prey on the vulnerable in our communities.
“Smith was followed and stopped by our officers. He thought he could get away with moving a huge amount of heroin but he now has to reflect on that in prison.”
Barry Smith’s Skoda Octavia was stopped by officers on the M6 northbound hard shoulder, between junctions 13 and 14, at Stafford at 1.20pm on 4th September last year.
The 44-year-old replied “No” to Central Motorways Policing Group (CMPG) officers when they asked if he had anything illegal in the car.
Upon searching his car, officers found two large sports bags inside the boot, which contained square-light brown packs and a large amount of cash. After being examined by a drugs expert, the blocks tested positive for heroin and were found to be 15 to 20cm thick and weighed 507 grams each.
The total weight of the heroin found was 40.5kg and, based on typical street deals being £10 for 0.1g of heroin, the packages were valued at just over £4 million.
The heroin will be destroyed and the £5,600 in cash was seized at the scene.