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Perrie Wharrie was convicted for €440m cocaine importation.
Perrie Wharrie was convicted for €440m cocaine importation.
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Wharrie decision is reserved by court

A FIVE-JUDGE Supreme Court has reserved its decision over an appeal by the DPP against a decision to cut a 30-year jail sentence on a man for his role in a bungled attempt to bring in a record €440 million drugs consignment off the Cork coast nearly 10 years ago.

Perry Wharrie, aged 56, Loughton, Essex, England, had his 30-year sentence reduced on appeal to an effective 17-and-a-half years over the cocaine haul at Dunlough Bay on the Mizen peninsula on July 2, 2007.

At his trial in Cork Circuit Criminal Court, he had pleaded not guilty to possession of the drugs for sale or supply but was unanimously found guilty by a jury.

He was part of a gang who used a rigid inflatable boat which met a catamaran from which the drugs were transferred.

The operation went awry after the transfer because diesel had been put in the rigid inflatable boat’s petrol engine which cut out causing the craft to flounder and sink in unseasonably rough July seas.

Lifeboat crews who came to the aid of the sinking inflatable boat found one of Wharrie’s accomplices floating in the sea encircled by 65 bales of cocaine, which was subsequently found to be 75% pure. Wharrie and another man made it ashore but both were arrested two days later.

He appealed his conviction but this was rejected. He later appealed the actual sentence. The Court of Criminal Appeal cut it to 22 years and also allowed a five-year discount for how well he had been doing in prison.

He later asked the Court of Appeal to certify an appeal to the Supreme Court on a point of law in which it was argued the offences of possession of the drugs for sale in supply had not been committed because the evidence in the case showed the cocaine was destined for another jurisdiction.

The appeal court last October rejected that application.

Yesterday, the DPP asked the Supreme Court to determine whether the appeal court was correct, when reducing his sentence, to take as mitigation the fact that he had not given evidence at his original trial.

The court heard two of Wharrie’s co-accused, who had given evidence and also pleaded not guilty, got 30 years and 25 years imprisonment respectively. The trial judge viewed their evidence as an aggravating factor in their cases.

The appeal court said the trial judge decided that in Wharrie’s case, while that aggravating factor did not apply because he did not give evidence, Wharrie’s “lamentable” criminal record cancelled it out. That record included convictions for murder, robbery and firearms.

The appeal court decided this was an error in principle and said Wharrie was entitled to credit for not attempting to tender false evidence.

Thomas Creed SC, for the DPP, argued in the Supreme Court this was simply a tactical decision on Wharrie’s behalf and should not be regarded as grounds for mitigation.

Michael O’Higgins SC, for Wharrie, said the appeal court was correct in its decision.

The five-judge Supreme Court said it would give its decision later.