Sudbury man jailed in £2.5m cocaine operation fails to overturn sentence

Police news
Police news

A Sudbury man jailed for a £2.5m drugs plot — in which cocaine was stashed in a secret wardrobe compartment — has failed in a bid to clear his name.

Thomas Albert Hart acted as henchman for Jason Parker, one of the kingpins involved in the massive cocaine supply operation.

Parker, 44, received a 23-year sentence at Southwark Crown Court in December 2015 after jurors convicted him of conspiracy to supply cocaine.

Hart, of Cavendish Way in Sudbury, was handed an 11-year term after he was found guilty of the same charge.

He was arrested and prosecuted after a police raid on the gang’s headquarters at a farm near Chelmsford, Essex.

An exhaustive search of the farmhouse uncovered a £2.5m stash of cocaine - hidden in a variety of places around the house including the false bottom of a wardrobe.

Other hiding places included an oven glove, an old suitcase and the fridge.

Hart, 27, was sentenced on the basis that he was Parker’s “assistant”, Lord Justice Treacy told London’s Appeal Court today.

Challenging his conviction today, Hart argued that key elements of the prosecution case should have been excluded from the trial.

But the appeal judge, sitting with Mrs Justice Simon and Judge Martyn Zeidman QC, said Hart had faced a “strong” case.

His name was included on an incriminating list, and “he was staying in a room near where the drugs and paraphernalia were found”.

“It is not arguable that this conviction was unsafe,” the judge ruled.

Also dismissing Hart’s sentence challenge, he added: “It is simply unarguable that 11 years for conspiracy to supply was manifestly excessive.

“A long custodial sentence was inevitable.”