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Woman OAP smuggled cigarettes

PUBLISHED: 10:57 22 May 2009 | UPDATED: 13:58 03 July 2010

A JUDGE in Kent has expressed amazement that a woman pensioner from Great Yarmouth continued trying to smuggle tobacco and cigarettes into the country, despite having been caught in the past and having had the illicit goods confiscated.

A JUDGE in Kent has expressed amazement that a woman pensioner from Great Yarmouth continued trying to smuggle tobacco and cigarettes into the country, despite having been caught in the past and having had the illicit goods confiscated.

Judge Jeremy Carey said the behaviour of Shirley Riches “beggared belief” as she threw good money after bad month after month.

But he said: “I am not going to send this 65-year-old woman to prison. I want to discourage her from other activities of this kind.”

Maidstone Crown Court heard that Riches made coach trips from her Great Yarmouth home across the Channel for nearly three years to go bootlegging.

Records showed that since November 2005, hand-rolling tobacco and cigarettes she bought in bulk to sell on were seized by customs officers on 17 occasions.

When stopped once again in July last year at the Channel Tunnel in Coquelles, France, she declared three kilos of tobacco.

But a search of her bag revealed five and a half kilos.

This time she was charged with evading duty. She denied the offence but was convicted by a jury.

Judge Carey questioned the wisdom of confiscation proceedings being taken against Riches, of Caister Road, and said it would prevent him passing sentence immediately. He had in mind a substantial fine.

However, prosecutor Nasra Butt said she had instructions to continue with confiscation proceedings.

The judge told jurors after they had returned verdicts: “It is a curious case, is it not, that a defendant displayed an approach to her activities that was out of the ordinary.

“To say it was illogical is perhaps not stretching it too far. To proceed as she did beggars belief.

“For reasons best known to herself she has persisted in throwing good money after bad month after month,” he said.

Judge Carey told Riches: “I don't begin to understand your thought processes or the logic of what you were doing, as found by the jury on what I judge to be overwhelming evidence against you.

“That is serious offending. Even at relatively low levels, courts frequently send offenders to prison in order to demonstrate this kind of offending will be punished severely.

“I am not going to send you to prison because I am being particularly merciful to you,” he said.

“Rather like your gambling, you have lost substantial sums of money. If ever there was a case where someone with a modicum of intelligence and good sense would know this was a futile exercise, this is it.

“I am not going to say you should not travel by coach, because were you to do so you would be an idiot.”

Told that Riches had £4,000 in an account to pay the fine, the judge said: “Do not be so foolish as to disable yourself from paying a substantial financial penalty.

“If you leave this court with no option but to impose a custodial sentence, it will. I put it in a blunt way: Do not get rid of your money.”

Adjourning sentence until July 29 when the question of confiscation of assets will be dealt with, the judge ordered Riches to surrender her passport within five days.


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