A DRUGS mule who smuggled cannabis from Amsterdam into the UK has been put behind bars.
Former professional diver Edward Lawless, from Cairo Street, Hendon, Sunderland, turned courier for dealers when he lost his job and needed cash to bring his wife and child over from Kazakstan.
Newcastle Crown Court heard he was collared when he was stopped by Border Agency officers at the Tyne Commission Quay in North Shields, with more than £2,500 of cannabis stashed in the lining of his luggage.
The 61-year-old confessed he would pick up the drugs in Amsterdam and leave them at pre-arranged drop-off points, including wasteland close to the Middlesbrough FC’s Riverside Stadium.
Lawless told officers his travel and expenses were paid for, and he would receive his payment in an envelope which would be pushed through his door.
Checks with his travel agent in Sunderland showed he had made 14 trips to Holland between September 2009 and June last year.
Lawless admitted four charges of importing a class B drug.
Prosecutor Joan Smith said: “He was extremely candid in interview. He accepted cannabis had been found within his bag.”
Miss Smith said Lawless gave varying accounts about who actually purchased the cannabis abroad and how much was paid.
“He said he got about 48 hours’ notice before he goes on the trip.”
Mr Recorder Mark Gargan jailed Lawless, who had a previous good character, for eight months.
The judge told him: “I accept you are a courier, not a man profiting directly from the sales. You were not a supplier, you were lower down the chain than that.
“I also accept you are a man who did not seek out this opportunity, but who had this opportunity to make money offered to you and was unable to resist the temptation because of what you thought might be the benefits for your wife and child..”
Jamie Adams, defending, said Lawless, was struggling to find work to fund his wife and son’s move to the UK when he was asked to become involved by “cronies he met in the pub”.
Mr Adams added: “He was desperate to find employment, so desperate to get some money. He was a soft target.”
Malcolm Bragg, assistant director for the UK Border Agency, said: “The UK Border Agency has robust controls in place at all its borders, and the subsequent investigation shows we will not hesitate to take the strongest possible action against those involved in drug smuggling.”