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Drug courier escapes jail

A SHETLAND drug courier who admitted trying to smuggle 30 grammes of heroin into the isles escaped a lengthy jail sentence when she appeared before Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday.

Mhairi-Claire Stewart, of 57 King Harald Street, Lerwick, had the Class A drug concealed in her body when she was arrested after disembarking from the Aberdeen ferry at the Holmsgarth ferry terminal on 22 September last year.

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The court heard how the 20 year old had been approached in Aberdeen by someone she did not know, who asked her to take the small package to Shetland in return for £400.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said Stewart had told police that she had thought the package contained amphetamine rather than heroin.

He said the drugs, if broken down to their smallest tradable quantity, could have had a potential street value of £4,200.

Defence solicitor Tommy Allan said his client was a naïve young woman with learning difficulties who had been taken advantage of. However, he said, she was fully aware of the fact that her actions were illegal.

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Mr Allan said that Stewart found it difficult to make appropriate choices as to who her friends were, adding that threats had been made against her and her family and that on one occasion she had been assaulted.

The first offender was aware that there had been plenty of opportunity to alert the authorities, he added.

Pleading for leniency, Mr Allan told the court that if his client was sent to jail her mother would be particularly hard hit.

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Mr Mackenzie, however, questioned the suggestion that Stewart had not been aware of what was in the package she had accepted from an unknown man in Aberdeen.

Sheriff Philip Mann adjourned the court for 20 minutes to consider what he had heard.

Sentencing Stewart to 300 hours of unpaid work and putting her under supervision for 18 months, he told her that circumstances on this occasion were exceptional enough for her not to go to jail.

“You are the main carer for your mother, who will be affected by this if you go to jail” he said, adding that the chances of her re-offending were very low.

But he stressed that he was passing sentence with a “substantial degree of hesitation”, adding that this should not be misread as a message to other drug couriers.

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