Jail for drug 'storeman' who stashed over £70k of cannabis in Sheffield home for 'up to eight criminal groups'
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The criminal dealings of defendant, Johnathan Atkinson, were exposed over three years ago when police raided his Sheffield home on August 24, 2019, Sheffield Crown Court was told during a hearing held on October 13, 2022. Prosecuting barrister, Zaiban Alam, said Atkinson was abroad in Cyprus when the warrant was executed, but his daughter and her friends were present.
“Seventeen tubs of cannabis were found in the loft area, along with weighing scales,” Ms Alam said. She told the court that a total of 7.06kg of cannabis was found at the property, adding that it was estimated to have a street value of more than £70,000.
“The defendant was arrested on his return from Cyprus at Manchester Airport...the defendant had a significant role and was put in charge of a considerable amount of cannabis. He must have been aware of the scale of the operation,” Ms Alam added.
Following his arrest, Atkinson, aged 50, was charged with possession of intent to supply cannabis. Ms Alam said Atkinson put forward a basis of plea in which he said that he acted as a ‘storeman’ because his home was deemed a ‘safe location’; and said he was storing the Class B drug for up to eight different parties, adding that he ‘regretted becoming involved’ with the operation. Atkinson’s basis of plea was accepted by the prosecution, and he subsequently pleaded guilty to the offence at an earlier hearing. The court was told that Atkinson’s criminal record consists of 13 previous offences from nine convictions, including a 2011 conviction for possession of cannabis.
The judge, Recorder Benjamin Nolan KC, asked both Ms Alam and Atkinson’s barrister, David Godfrey, whether Atkinson, of Farnaby Gardens, High Green, had assisted the police in identifying the individuals and gangs he stored the cannabis for.
Mr Godfrey said Atkinson had not assisted South Yorkshire Police, adding that the last time he had contact with them was when he was initially arrested and interviewed in 2019.
Recorder Nolan responded by saying: “He knows who these people are, I would have thought he could assist police with their enquiries.”
Mr Godfrey replied: “It’s not as straight-forward as that.”
Recorder Nolan also asked for an explanation for the long delay in the case being brought before the court, but neither Mr Godfrey or Ms Alam were able to provide one.
In mitigation, Mr Godfrey said: “He had the good sense to plead guilty at a very early stage, but I know he has not provided the names of the men for whom he stored the cannabis…there’s a degree of naivety, when one looks at his record.”
He added: “Since this event, some three-and-a-half years ago, things have changed significantly for him. Your Honour will see a reference from his employer, and he’s quite firmly turned his back on this endeavour, and has been working hard to make some honest cash.”
Recorder Nolan jailed Atkinson for 18 months, and told him: “You were obviously operating this store for a significant period of time, and were involved with up to eight different criminal groups.”
“There has to be, in my judgment, an immediate sentence of imprisonment.”
Recorder Nolan confirmed that proceeds of crime proceedings will now follow.