"This was the biggest drugs investigation I have known in this force. It has been very challenging and a big test in turning intelligence into evidence. These people are significant players in the supply of drugs into the UK from Holland and Belgium. We believe they have been doing it for years."
Detective Superintendent, Devon & Cornwall Police
On the 9th of August 2002, I was arrested in a flat in Plymouth, England. Also in the flat was my brother and over 100 kilos of amphetamine with an estimated value of £770,000. The amphetamine had been imported from the Continent and was in the process of being cut to reduce it purity, and my arrest was due an undercover police operation that was focused on the individuals that were smuggling cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine and amphetamine into the southwest of England.
I was charged with conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of Class B, namely amphetamine sulphate. Due to the nature and scale of the allegation, I was remanded in custody and sent to Exeter Prison. I followed six others who had been charged with a variety of drug related offences.
However, my legal team were confident of my position. The police operation had been over 18 months in duration and I didn’t appear anywhere in the evidential bundles. They were certain that, once the dust had settled, my situation would be understood, resolved in a positive manner and my good character preserved.
It didn’t quite turn out like that.
It took over a month of concerted effort by my solicitors to secure my release from prison. However, the bail conditions were heavy. Surety was £100,000. I was to reside at my mother’s address. I was not to travel outside the city of Plymouth and I was to report daily to the city’s central police station between 12 noon and 2pm.
The expectation that my case would be concluded before the end of the year quickly evaporated as the collective court cases descended into legal argument, confusion, obstruction and delay. It was also clear that I was viewed by the prosecution as potential leverage. They wanted my brother to talk, and my freedom was now part of that deal. I knew that was never going to happen, so I started to prepare myself for a long haul.
Fortunately, there was a university next to the police station, so I started a post graduate Masters in education. It was a one-year course and it meant that the time contesting my charges wouldn’t be wasted. However, when I graduated in the summer of 2003, almost nothing had changed, so I decided to sign up for another Masters for later in the year, this time in documentary photography.
However, the stresses and strains of my predicament were beginning to take a toll. I was drinking more, suffering continual migraines and on medication for depression. In response, I started to photograph my life – its restrictions, its limits, its boundaries. The environments that I saw around me were as shattered, twisted and as constricted as I had felt. Landscape as self-portrait. It became cathartic.
One by one, those individuals related to my case struck their deals and entered their guilty pleas, until I was left alone with the alleged mastermind of the operation and his right-hand man. They were taking a calculated gamble as the prosecution case against them was by no means certain. I had no choice. A trial date was set.
The final proceedings lasted over 5 weeks and concluded on the 15th of July 2004, almost 2 years after my initial arrest. Those stood next to me in the dock when the verdicts were announced were found guilty of all charges. The jury unanimously found me not guilty.
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