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URTU proves driver's innocence

1st February 1996
Page 10
Page 10, 1st February 1996 — URTU proves driver's innocence
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

by Lee Kimber • A prosecution case against an owner-driver accused of smuggling 97kg of cannabis resin was thrown out by a Portsmouth jury after the United Road Transport Union produced photographic evidence in his defence.

Coalville truck owner Brian McKay was acquitted after URTU general-secretary David Higginbottom produced photographs proving that British drivers regularly leave their trailers unattended long enough for smugglers to hide drugs in their chassis.

McKay was arrested with a fellow defendant—who owned the trailer—two years ago while bringing a return load of onions from southern Spain for Swindon freight forwarder Waylanders.

They claimed the resin was secreted in one of the trailer's crossbars when they left it outside a pack. house for three days while waiting to load.

The jury rejected a pros ecution claim that drivers' constantly monitor their trailers after Higginbottom produced photographs of several driverless trailers outside Spanish packhouses and in streets.

He said drivers leave some trailers unlocked to discourage thieves from breaking into them.

• The decision comes amid growing evidence that judicial opinion is swinging in favour of drug-driver victims. Other photographs were instrumental in persuading Customs and Excise to drop a similar prosecution against another driver in November last year.

There is also growing concern over rumours that drivers on the Spanish fruit and vegetable runs are being threatened at gunpoint if they do not carry drugs. CM has learned that some drivers have been threatened with shotguns and shown photographs of their wives and children as part of blackmail threats. Defence solicitors say smugglers have resorted to hiding packages on trailers if drivers have refused to cooperate. There is no suggestion that McKay was asked to carry packages.

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