HMA v Crawford Lawrence Murphy, Kevin John Ferguson, Zane Troy Astbury and George Davidson Black

At the High Court in Glasgow today (13 December), Lord Arthurson sentenced Crawford Lawrence Murphy, Kevin John Ferguson, Zane Troy Astbury and George Davidson Black to imprisonment after they pled guilty to being involved in contraventions of section 4(3)(b) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

On sentencing, Lord Arthurson made the following statement in court:

“Crawford Lawrence Murphy, Kevin John Ferguson, Zane Troy Astbury and George Davidson Black, at various continued preliminary hearing diets during these indictment proceedings you have each tendered a plea of guilty to a contravention of section 4(3)(b) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 in respect that each of you was, over the respective periods libelled against you, concerned in the supply of the class A controlled drug diamorphine primarily in Dundee, but also elsewhere in Scotland.  In respect of each of you, there is an aggravation that this offence was connected to serious organised crime, and in your case, Mr Black, there is also a bail aggravation.  In addition, each of you, Mr Murphy and Mr Ferguson, have tendered a plea of guilty to a further charge libelling a separate contravention of section 4(3)(b) of the 1971 Act in respect of you being concerned in the supply of the class A controlled drug cocaine, similarly aggravated by a connection with serious organised crime.

On 15 November 2019, being the last occasion upon which this case called in court, the Crown provided detailed agreed narrations setting out the involvement of each of you in these matters.  I do not intend to rehearse that material this morning.  The criminal conduct of each of you, in varying degrees of course, plainly contributed to the ensuring of a steady supply of large quantities of class A controlled drugs to the Dundee area over the periods libelled in this case.  This was on any view a very significant drugs operation which was aggravated by its connection with serious organised crime.

Mr Murphy, the maximum potential approximate value of the cocaine involved in your case was £29,600; and the maximum potential approximate value of the diamorphine was £151,600.  You have accrued to date 25 groups of prior convictions in Scotland, including 3 for crimes of violence at indictment level.  You have served 10 custodial sentences.  Significantly, you have in addition a single directly analogous conviction from 2014 in the Crown Court in England, for possession with intent to supply cocaine in terms of section 5(3) of the 1971 Act, in respect of which you received a 54 month sentence of imprisonment.  The background report prepared for the Court today in respect of you indicates that while you accept responsibility for these crimes, which involved a high degree of planning, you have sought to minimise the values of the controlled drugs involved.  You have been assessed as presenting a high risk of reoffending.

Mr Ferguson, the maximum potential approximate value of the cocaine involved in your case was also £29,600; and the maximum potential value of the diamorphine was £327,670.  You were the leader of the organised crime group referred to by the Crown in this case.  You have accrued 25 groups of previous convictions, two at indictment level, and you have served 6 custodial sentences to date.  You have no directly analogous prior convictions.  The background report prepared in respect of you discloses that while you have stated that you accept full responsibility for your involvement in these crimes, in which your own role was an integral one involving a considerable level of detailed planning, the author of the report is of the view that your acceptance of responsibility is only partial.  You have been assessed as presenting a high risk of reoffending.

Mr Astbury, the maximum approximate potential value of the diamorphine connected to you in this case was £64,300, which figure could be increased considerably in the event of the drug being adulterated.  You have only 3 groups of prior convictions and have not yet served any custodial sentence.  The author of the background report prepared in your case has reported that you have expressed genuine remorse about your involvement in the criminal conduct which you have accepted responsibility for.  Your position is that your involvement was restricted to the provision of a “safe house” for the storage and preparation of the controlled drug libelled in your case.  You have been assessed as presenting a moderate risk of reoffending.

Mr Black, the maximum approximate potential value of the diamorphine connected to you in this case was £70,520, which figure could be increased considerably in the event of the drug being adulterated.  You have 17 groups of previous convictions and have to date served only one short custodial sentence.  The background report prepared in respect of you records your own acknowledgement that you were involved in organised criminal behaviour, and in the report you are assessed as presenting a high level of criminogenic risk.

I have listened with considerable care to the submissions in mitigation advanced this morning by your counsel in respect of each of you, and I propose to take all of the points made by them in the course of their submissions into account in imposing sentence upon you. In particular I note what has been said about your personal circumstances, attitudes to this offending and the timing of your pleas of guilty.

I now sentence you on this indictment as follows.  The gravity of the offending which the Court is presented with in this case means that only significant custodial disposals will be appropriate, as you will all appreciate.

Mr Murphy, I sentence you on charges 1 and 2, on an in cumulo basis, to a period of 6 years and 4 months imprisonment, which period I have discounted from one of 8 years due to the timing of your pleas of guilty.  You have been the subject of a recall to custody in respect of an earlier conviction and in fixing this custodial tariff I have taken into account the very short custodial period in March 2019 which is attributable to the present case.  Your sentence will run therefore from today.  In addition I now grant the Crown application for a serious crime prevention order in respect of you in the terms presently before the Court.

Mr Ferguson, I sentence you on charges 1 and 2, on an in cumulo basis, to a period of 6 years and 9 months imprisonment, discounted in your case from a period of 8 years and 6 months due to the timing of your pleas of guilty.  In fixing this custodial tariff I have taken into account the period spent in custody by you in respect of these proceedings between December 2018 and March 2019.  Your sentence will be backdated to 30 May 2019, being the date of your last remand in custody.  In addition I now grant the Crown application for a serious crime prevention order in respect of you in the terms presently before the Court.

Mr Astbury, I sentence you on charge 1 to a period of 4 years imprisonment, discounted in your case from a period of 5 years due to the timing of your plea of guilty.  This sentence will run from today.

Mr Black, I sentence you on charge 1 to a period of 4 years and 4 months imprisonment, discounted from a period of 5 years and 6 months due to the timing of your plea of guilty.  I take into account the very short period which you spent on remand in September 2018 in fixing this custodial tariff.  I have apportioned 4 months of this sentence to the bail aggravation which features in your plea on this charge.  Your sentence also will run from today.”

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