KAVANAGH CASE: Daniel Canning breezes through customs at Stansted Airport despite arrest warrant


A MAN who pleaded guilty to an international drug smuggling offence wanted on an arrest warrant to be sentenced was able to breeze through customs at Stansted Airport before jumping into a cab this morning, raising questions about border security.

Daniel Canning, 42, (above) was due to appear at Ipswich Crown Court for sentence today with Thomas "Bomber" Kavanagh, 53, and Gary Vickery, 38.

The three pleaded guilty to drug smuggling offences more than a year ago but have yet to be sentenced due to a series of issues connected to coronavirus and their basis of plea.

The three pleaded guilty at Ipswich to conspiring to import class A and B drugs, and money laundering in July 2020.

Canning also admitted possessing a firearm and ammunition.

The prosecution concerns 292 kilos of cocaine and 600-800 kilos of cannabis with a combined street value of more than £38 million.

Although, in basis of plea statements, the three claim the amount of cocaine involved was 30 kilos.

Canning, from Wilkinstown, Dublin, and Vickery, from Shirley, West Midlands, were able to leave the country after being granted unconditional bail by Cannock Magistrates Court in January 2020, despite the gravity of the offences they faced.

They both pleaded guilty last year via a remote link and have attended all hearings virtually.

Judge Martyn Levett has made clear in court the difficulties this has brought to getting them to surrender to the court.

The court has not explained why no conditions were placed on the bail or they were not remanded in custody.

The National Crime Agency (NCA), including its Director General Lynne Owens, have refused to say if the agency pushed for any conditions or a remand, but the CPS has claimed neither "met the threshold for custody" and added that they have attended all hearings remotely.

The pair were supposed to appear physically at Ipswich last month, but only attended via remote link, with their defence telling the court they did not want to travel until they had been double vaccinated against coronavirus.

DELAYS: Left to right Canning, Kavanagh and Vickery

Judge Martyn Levett issued warrants for their arrest as a result.

This morning Richard Furlong, representing Canning, said he had flown from Dublin to Stansted at 7.50am and had expected to be arrested upon arrival.

He said: "He got into Stansted at 9.20am and he passed through security without any problems and found himself on the street outside Stansted Airport wondering why he was not arrested.

"He got a taxi and is on his way here."

Judge Levett said it caused problems as it was likely he would be arrested upon arrival at court, and then taken to a local police station to be processed, before being brought back before him.

He said he wanted to be informed as soon as the cab was arriving so he could withdraw the warrant to avoid the arrest before he surrendered to the custody of the court, to avoid further delays.

Regarding getting through Stansted unchallenged, Judge Levatt said: "I am not going to say a word as there could be some good reasons and there could be some bad reasons, so I will not say anything until I am told the reason."

The court heard Vickery was now in Tenerife and had failed to depart for the UK, with his barrister Nigel Power saying it was because he had been "pinged" by the health service there and told to isolate.

He had been staying on Lanzarote.

Mr Power said: "Mr Vickery is still in Tenerife and yesterday encountered difficulties when he tried to check in for a flight."

He provided to the court evidence of phone calls between Vickery and the health service and said he had not flown as he had been told to be tested and to isolate.

Judge Levett (below) described these as "significant problems with people coming from abroad" and asked how long he had been told to isolate for.

The case was initially heard in chambers and the court heard that it was so the judge could be told why Kavanagh's defence team was no longer able to act for him and had to be replaced at the eleventh-hour with legal aid being transferred.

James Scobie QC, who had been representing Kavanagh, said: "For the reasons set out in more detail in chambers, both Mr Kavanagh's instructing solicitor and counsel are no longer able to professionally represent him.

"Your honour understand what they are and the crown are aware of them and legal aid can be transfer to another firm to represent him today."

The case was adjourned until the afternoon to see if Canning arrived, which he did and was remanded into custody with a bail application expected.

The court was told that Vickery could face arrest if he tries to leave Tenerife before August 15 as he has to isolate after a contact contracted coronavirus.

The case was adjourned.

Kavangh, from Tamworth, who is seen as the most senior member of the crime group, is in custody after being jailed in 2019 to a three-year sentence for possessing a stun gun disguised as a torch, which was discovered during a raid on his mansion as part of the same operation.

The prosecution was the result of a four-year joint investigation by the Irish Garda and the NCA into a multi million pound drug-trafficking operation.

The sentence has been delayed several times as the defence requested a newton hearing where the defence and prosecution would look to agree on the level of drugs involved in the conspiracy and the roles played by each defendant in the conspiracy.

It is not clear if this will still go ahead after the three made the basis of plea statements.

Essex Police and Stansted Airport have been contacted for comment.

An Essex Police spokeswoman said: "I’ve spoken to our teams and we did not receive an alert for Canning on our systems."

A National Crime Agency spokeswoman said: "Due to an administrative issue, Canning was not arrested when he arrived at Stansted Airport on the 9th August.

"Canning’s details had not been flagged on the correct system, so he wasn’t stopped upon arrival at the airport.

"Canning’s Barrister confirmed he was making his way to Ipswich Crown Court, so HHJ Levett decided not to have him arrested, as to do so would delay proceedings.

"The warrant remained in place until Canning arrived at court – he was subsequently remanded in custody and the warrant withdrawn.

"A review of how this happened is underway so we won’t be commenting any further at this stage."