62,000 illegal cigarettes: Court

A COLERAINE man caught with over 62,000 illegal cigarettes has been handed a suspended sentence.

Before Friday's sitting of North Antrim Magistrates' Court was William McIntyre (60) of Ballycastle Road in Coleraine.

McIntyre was charged with evading customs duty on goods.

The court was told that McIntyre and a co-accused were stopped by police in Cloughmills on December 2, last year.

The pair were transferring cigarettes from the car of the co-accused into McIntyre's Ford Galaxy.

Officers located 62,100 mixed cigarettes and 455 in cash. The value of the cigarettes was over 14,000.

The cigarettes were examined by Customs and Excise Officers and they were found to be both counterfeit and non-duty paid cigarettes.

During a police interview, McIntyre admitted the offence.

He told police that he had been asked to collect the cigarettes and deliver them to a car park at Ballyrashane Creamery. The defendant said he was getting 100 for collecting the cigarettes.

Defence solicitor for McIntyre, Alan Stewart, told the court that the grandfather of six had hit 'hard times' and agreed to do the run in exchange for 100. Mr Stewart told the court that McIntyre's Ford Galaxy had been seized and detained by Customs officials.

Describing the incident as unprofessional, the solicitor said: "McIntyre and his co-accused were found at the side of a road, there was no professionalism in this. He didn't give the names of the people whom he had been employed by, as he felt he would have to up-root his family from the Coleraine area."

The solicitor went on to say that McIntyre was embarrassed by his actions, and that he had not only lost his car, but that he had not got the 100 he had been promised.

District Judge Richard Wilson told McIntyre that he should have known not to get involved with the illegal operation, he said: "For the sake of 100 what on earth where you thinking?

Mr McIntyre replied saying his actions were 'not very wise'.

The District Judge handed McIntyre a 500 fine, he was also ordered to pay 79 in court costs.

McIntyre was also handed a three month jail term, which was suspended for two years. Mr Wilson warned: "Don't be involved in this again."