KAVANAGH CASE: No sentence until 20 months after guilty pleas - what was in Vickery letter to judge?


THREE drug importers, who the National Crime Agency (NCA) says are aligned to the Kinahan cartel, will not be sentenced until at least 20 months after they pleaded guilty.

Irish nationals Thomas "Bomber" Kavanagh, (top middle) 54, Gary Vickery, 39, (top right) and Daniel Canning, 43, (top left) pleaded guilty at Ipswich Crown Court in July 2020 to conspiring to import class A and B drugs, and money laundering. Canning, from Dublin, also admitted possessing a firearm and ammunition. But the case has faced repeated delays due to coronavirus travel restrictions after Canning and Vickery travelled overseas after being given unconditional bail at their first hearing, despite the National Crime Agency saying they were linked to the suspected international drugs cartel. Vickery, originally from Dublin, (pictured below under arrest) was extradited from Lanzarote last month after Canning voluntarily returned from Ireland, with all three now remanded in custody. Questions remain about why they were ever granted unconditional bail at the start of a multi-million drugs prosecution, but the CPS and NCA have failed to give satisfactory explanations.

There have also been legal wrangles over the amount of drugs involved with the prosecution saying it was 292kgs of cocaine, worth from £23 to £30 million at UK street value, and the defendants claiming it was just 30 kgs. On Friday, Ipswich Crown Court Kavanagh, from Tamworth, appeared in court, with Canning and Vickery attending the hearing via video link from Chelmsford and Norwich prisons respectively. The court heard sentence will not take place until March at the earliest due to a two-day hearing being required and availability of each parties lawyers and Judge Martyn Levett, who insisted he must deal with the case. During the hearing, Judge Levett said he had received a letter from Vickery, but no details of its contents were disclosed, and he said it has been passed to "the counsel concerned." The court also heard prosecutor Reil Karmy-Jones QC has prepared a provisional sentencing note, but this will be changed with the help of fellow prosecutor Max Baines. Each defendant is expected to half thirty minutes of mitigation before they are sentenced. There had been due to be a Newton hearing - a trial within a trial - which would try to assess the level of drugs involved due to the huge difference between the prosecution and the defendants over the amount involved. However, the CPS now appears to have accepted the basis of plea documents for all three which say it was 30kgs, meaning the Newton hearing is unlikely. Judge Levett asked if any new basis of plea documents should be expected, but he was told there would not be. The prosecution was the result of a four-year joint investigation by the Irish Garda and the NCA into a multimillion pound, Kinahan-backed drug-trafficking operation. The Kinahan cartel was established in Ireland and has links to Spain, the UK, the Netherlands, Dubai and south America.