WHY were they bailed? Judge's headache after other court allowed Kinahan associates to leave country
A JUDGE outlined how a counterpart's earlier decision, to give two Kinahan cartel associates accused of major drug importation offences unconditional bail, has caused major problems in getting them back into the country and court.
Gary Vickery, 38, and Daniel Canning, 42, pleaded guilty at Ipswich Crown Court with Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh, 53, to conspiring to import class A and B drugs, and money laundering, a year ago in July 2020.
Canning also admitted possessing a firearm and ammunition.
The prosecution concerns a whopping 292 kilos of cocaine and 600-800 kilos of cannabis with a combined street value of more than £38 million.
But they have yet to be sentenced and Vickery and Canning are not even in the UK.
Kavanagh, seen as the UK's most senior Kinahan cartel associate has been in custody in Dovegate Prison 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.
But Canning (above left) has enjoyed his freedom at family parties and was snapped by the Sunday World on the forecourt of his former car repair business in Dublin.
Meanwhile, Vickery (above right) has been soaking up rays at an unknown Spanish location, the address of which even the court was unable to provide.
The two have to return to the court physically by Friday, July 16, or face an arrest warrant being issued and an extra 12 months added to their sentence.
At an earlier hearing in May Judge Martyn Levett made his views known on the situation.
He said: "When the other defendants surrender (Canning and Vickery) it concerns me.
"If I issue a warrant for their surrender, do they get arrested at the airport and are they taken into immediate custody? "Should I permit them to make arrangements to surrender? They are going to have to pay for ten days' accommodation (due to Covid-19 isolation rules). "This is a case transferred from another circuit to Ipswich Crown Court... decided by another judge before me, in so far as the defendants Mr Canning and Mr Vickery they are on bail, and I don't know who granted bail and I had no involvement in this."
Essex News and Investigations has tried to discover why the pair were given unconditional bail despite each facing potentially 20 years in jail.
People facing less serious drug supply charges are routinely remanded in custody, although individual circumstances will be taken into account.
Before a case gets to its first hearing at a magistrates court the CPS will decide if it will apply for a defendant to be remanded into custody or for any bail conditions to be imposed.
It takes advice from the investigating officer, who in this case is from the National Crime Agency.
Prosecuting, Riel Karmy Jones told Judge Levett that "bail was not opposed at the early stage."
She added: "The position has changed and had they been in the country after the pleas were entered we would have sought a remand."
This suggests the CPS asked for no conditions to be imposed at the start of the case, but it could have sought a condition preventing them from leaving the country.
We asked the CPS why it had not sought some conditions or the pair being remanded in custody.
A CPS spokesman said: "We don’t think there was any criticism by the judge."
He also claimed there were "insufficient grounds under the Bail Act to remand the defendants in custody."
RAID: Garda and NCA officers at Kavanagh's mansion (NCA)
This is not correct as defendants in less serious drug supply cases are routinely remanded into custody and the CPS' own bail guidelines allow for the severity of offence and expected sentence to be taken into account.
Any offences involving firearms should also usually involve a remand into custody. The guidelines state: "The effect that the seriousness of the proceedings and the likely penalty of conviction may have upon the defendant.
"Generally speaking, the more serious the offence and the higher the likely penalty, the stronger will be the need to guard against one of the future risks."
We have again asked the CPS to explain why conditions or a remand were not sought.
We also asked the NCA if it asked the CPS to go for conditions or a remand and it wrongly claimed that "bail was a matter for the court."
JAILED: Kavanagh is already in prison (NCA)
The court will always consider prosecution recommendations on bail and these should be influenced by the investigating officer.
We have also gone back to the NCA to ask it to state if the investigating officer gave a view to the CPS on the bail position and what that was. We have discovered that the pair were given conditional bail at a hearing at Cannock Magistrates Court on February 17 2020.
We asked the court why unconditional bail was given and have been referred to the Ministry of Justice press office.
The case was next heard at Wolverhampton Crown Court, but the pair have not set foot in a court room since February due to coronavirus restrictions.
They even pleaded guilty at Ipswich Crown Court last July by remote link so Judge Levett was unable to remand them then.
It is also not clear why the case was transferred from Wolverhampton to Ipswich before the plea hearing. Judge Levett made it clear he will remand them as soon as they make it into his court. He said: "More likely than not I will be remanding them in custody.
"I don't have the power to do that when the are out of the jurisdiction.
"I don't know if there is likely to be a voluntary surrender. "I would have to issue a European Arrest Warrant. I'm not sure what the procedures are after Brexit could be several hoops. If someone does not surrender they are absconding and I have the power for adding a sentence of an extra 12 months "I need to know if HMPS will accept them coming from an amber or green country then take as one of the cohorts of people who are effectively sent to a term of imprisonment then have to go through a period of isolation for a period of ten days - there is quite a lot of info required The three are said by the Irish Criminal Assets Bureau to be part of the international Kinahan drugs Cartel, which began in Ireland, but is now run from Dubai.
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.
It is not clear what will happen on Friday as they have requested a newton hearing where the defence and prosecution would look to agree on the level of drugs involved in the conspiracy and this could last two weeks in August.
Although they each pleaded guilty, there is a dispute over the basis of the pleas.
A former Met Police intelligence officer with years of experience investigating organised crime said: "I would say they had been let out to work as informants. There is no way they would be given unconditional bail with what they are facing. That's what all this will be with delays and the Newton hearing, but this is not the right way t