Courier caught loading a van with cannabis in Mansfield

A drugs courier who was arrested after helping to load a van containing cannabis in Mansfield has been sentenced.

Friday, 11th June 2021, 4:11 pm

A CCTV operator spotted a group of men loading what they believed to be cannabis plants from the back of a van on Stockwell Gate in the town shortly before 10am on Wednesday, April 14.

The van was tracked on camera as it drove away from the scene, and as it pulled up at a set of red lights, officers approached the van – which was immediately driven away at speed.

Islam Vata was later arrested on Albert Street and the van was found abandoned on St Peter’s Retail Park.

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In a statement, police said a ‘significant quantity’ of cannabis plants was found in the back of the vehicle.

And a later search of a disused public house on Stockwell Gate uncovered around 700 young cannabis plants and an array of specialist growing equipment.

If the plants had been allowed to grow to maturity the plants could have had a value in excess of £400,000, officers said.

Vata, 24, of Bluebell Heath, Cradley Heath, Sandwell, pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis with intent to supply when he appeared at Nottingham Magistrates Court, on April 16.

On Friday at Nottingham Crown Court, Samuel Lowne, mitigating, said Vata, who has no previous convictions, ‘accepted his wrongdoing with a guilty plea at the first opportunity’.

He said Vata came to the UK from Albania via a lorry three-and-a-half years ago and has since lived and worked in the Birmingham where his uncle lives.

"He has made an application for asylum," Mr Lowne said. "How that application will be viewed in the light of this conviction, I don't know.

"But one imagines the Home Office will take a very dim view of it."

Recorder Andrew O'Connor QC said the van contained a ‘very large amount of cannabis’ but ‘there was no information available about the exact weight of the drugs’.

"But I have seen photographs of the drugs that were recovered,” he said.

He sentenced Vata on the basis of his plea that he was only courier to six weeks in prison. Because he has already served eight weeks on remand, he is entitled to be released immediately.

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