A big time drugs smuggler jailed for a plot to sneak £150 million of cocaine into the UK can have no complaint about his 28-year jail term, top judges have ruled.
Ex-pat John Alan Brooks, 62, originally from Blackpool, arranged for the transport of a 1.5-tonne consignment of cocaine, which was seized in a yacht off the coast of Ireland in late 2008.
Brooks was jailed for 28 years at Birmingham Crown Court, after he was found guilty of conspiracy to import class A drugs in September, 2012.
Three of the country’s most senior judges at London’s Appeal Court have now rejected a sentence challenge by Brooks, saying they were “not persuaded” his punishment was too tough.
Lord Justice Davis said Brooks, a one-time car dealer, who had lived and worked on the Fylde coast –with addresses on St Annes Road, South Shore, and Garstang Road East, Poulton –before fleeing to live the high-life in Spain in the 1980s was the “go-to-guy” for moving illegal drugs, but was rumbled after arranging for a “massive” consignment of cocaine to be moved from the South America to the UK.
He arranged the purchase of a boat, Dances With Waves, and set up a crew to sail it from Trinidad to Venezuela, load up a cache of high-grade cocaine and carry it across the Atlantic to Britain, the appeal judge said.
But the vessel fell into difficulties off the south west coast of Ireland and had to be boarded by Irish authorities, who discovered the huge drugs stash - which had an average purity of 70 per cent.
“It appears that it was the second largest seizure of class A drugs ever made by the Irish authorities,” Lord Justice Davis observed.
Charts and maps found on board indicated that the crew planned to land the haul in Wales. Brooks, who had lived in Marbella for years, was linked to the drug run via documents and phone records.
After his arrest, Brooks insisted he did not know he was involved in any drugs conspiracy, however, he was disbelieved by a jury, who convicted him by a majority verdict.
He had previous convictions for cannabis importation in France and Spain. He had also escaped from prison in Morocco while serving a 10-year jail sentence for “trafficking narcotics” into Tangiers.
On his record there was also a conviction for the false use of a passport, stemming from his use of travel documents bearing the name “David Harvey,” Lord Justice Davis said.
Appearing via video link in a suit, with long grey hair and a goatee and moustache, Brooks listened as his lawyers argued before the Appeal Court that the sentencing judge imposed a “manifestly excessive” term.
Highlighting Brooks’ personal mitigation, they said he had serious health problems and a dependent family, including two teenage children and a wife, living in Spain.
But Lord Justice Davis, sitting with Mr Justice Supperstone and Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC, said Brooks had a “key role to play” in what was a “massive drugs conspiracy” and the sentence reflected the enormous scale of the plot.
“We know that Brooks is 62. He has heart problems and is separated from his family, who are in Spain. But we are afraid that is due to his criminality. We are not persuaded that a sentence of 28 years’ imprisonment is excessive,” he added.
Nonetheless, the appeal judge accepted that a restriction barring Brooks from foreign travel after his eventual release was “not appropriate” and quashed it. The judges had earlier rebuffed a bid by Brooks to overturn his conviction.