Businessman jailed for cannabis smuggling operation

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill

A Hebden Bridge businessman who started smuggling cannabis to the Isle of Man has been jailed for two years.

Father-of-two Stephen Hill, 35, is understood to have turned to crime after his wooden crafts business was “ruined” by a flood, but today/yesterday (Thurs) a judge told him that was no justification for his activities.

A police investigation involving West Yorkshire officers and colleagues from the Isle of Man began early last year after a package sent to Hill was intercepted and found to contain £5000 in cash.

Hill was found to have made a number of trips to the Isle of Man and in April last year his vehicle was stopped at the Douglas ferry terminal.

Prosecutor Michael Smith told Bradford Crown Court that officers found two packages containing 1.2 kilograms of cannabis hidden in the seats.

When West Yorkshire officers executed a search warrant at Hill’s home in Market Street, Hebden Bridge, they found 4.5 kilograms of skunk cannabis and £7000 in cash.

Hill had also been growing eight cannabis plants at the house. Mr Smith said the police inquiry also revealed that cash deposits had been made into two bank accounts held by Hill.

Over an eight-month period more than £30,000 had been paid into a NatWest account with a further £7,235 deposited into Hill’s Lloyds account.

Following his arrest in the Isle of Man last year Hill was jailed by a court on the island and when he was released in November he was re-arrested by West Yorkshire officers in relation to their inquiry.

During his interview Hill admitted buying cannabis in England and smuggling the drugs into the Isle of Man by secreting the packages in his car or van.

Hill said that he also brought back large sums of cash from the Isle of Man after selling on the cannabis.

Hill was jailed for two years after he admitted possessing cannabis with intent to supply and money laundering offences.

He also admitted growing the cannabis plants and possessing a small amount of Ecstasy. “You turned to crime in order to provide for your family not to live the high life,” Judge Ross told Hill.

After reading several references in support of Hill Judge Rose concluded that he was not able to suspend the prison sentence, but he said it had been reduced to take account of the time the defendant had already spent serving his earlier sentence in the Isle of Man. Hill is due to face a further hearing in September as part of an inquiry under the Proceeds of Crime Act.