Suffolk mother jailed for ‘taxi’ service in heroin and cocaine drug deal

Joanne Birt was sentenced to two years and three months’ custody for drugs offences. Picture: SUFFOL

Joanne Birt was sentenced to two years and three months custody for drugs offences. Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY - Credit: Suffolk Constabulary

A Suffolk mother has been jailed for acting as a ‘taxi’ in a thwarted drug deal.

Joanne Birt will serve half of 27 months behind bars before being released on licence.

The 31-year-old, of Ufford, near Woodbridge, was convicted of being concerned in the supply of class A drugs at an earlier trial.

Returning to crown court for sentencing, she was said to have helped distribute cocaine and heroin by chauffeuring a dealer.

Prosecutor Juliet Donovan said Birt hid a golf ball-sized wad of drugs in her underwear as police stopped a Daihatsu in Martlesham on September 15, 2016.

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The ball contained wraps weighing 3.54 grammes in cocaine and 1.8g in heroin, as well as a smaller 104mg wrap of heroin.

One of two men in the car faced no further action, while Akeem Long, 26, of Samuel Court, Ipswich, was jailed for five years after admitting 11 charges, including the supply of drugs.

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Miss Donovan highlighted a text message from Birt to Long, in which she declined the offer of “doing London runs”.

“It infers she would do local runs and knew the extent of the operation,” added Miss Donovan.

Jonathan Hasson, mitigating, said Birt performed a limited role under direction from someone without a driving licence, who required an untraceable vehicle.

He said a jury was unconvinced Birt was in possession with intent to supply, after hearing her claim the drugs were thrown in her lap.

“She effectively acted as a taxi, for little reward,” said Mr Hasson.

He said Birt had been addicted to drugs but had since “got clean” and tried to turn her life around.

Recorder Rex Bryan said he saw no evidence of addiction at the time – or of any coercion – but Mr Hasson said there was still the issue of naivety and exploitation.

“This is a woman who had a daughter to look after on limited income. She did it because of her circumstances,” he added.

Under the European Convention on Human Rights, Mr Hasson said any interference in the right to family life must be necessary for the prevention of crime..

“The court should take into account her circumstances and show mercy,” he added.

Mr Recorder Bryan said he had taken into account Birt’s position, and that she had taken steps to ensure the properly care of her daughter if imprisoned.

Birt will also be banned from driving for two years and have to forfeit the car used in the crime.

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