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Two jailed for supplying ecstasy to Alfreton student Joana Burns

Joana Burns.
Joana Burns.

A judge described the case of an Alfreton student who died after taking ecstasy as a ‘tragedy in every dimension’ as he jailed her friend who supplied the drug.

Jeremy Richardson QC, jailed former student Katherine Lavin for six months for supplying ecstasy to her friend Joana Burns who died after taking the drug as they celebrated the end of their time at university.

Lavin, 22, was given the sentence at Sheffield Crown Court on Friday by Judge Jeremy Richardson QC, who heard how Lavin had collected a quantity of ecstasy for a group of Sheffield Hallam University friends, including Miss Burns, who all took the drug willingly in June 2017.

The judge told her: "Quite how an intelligent young woman, as you are, could do such a foolish thing is almost beyond understanding. You have wrecked your future.”

The court heard that Lavin, who was in tears as she was sentenced, bought the ecstasy from bar worker Benjamin Williams, 26, who was jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Judge Richardson added: "This case is a tragedy in every dimension.

"I would be failing in my public duty if I passed a suspended sentence in a case as serious as this."

Both Lavin, of Kentmore Close, Stockport, and Williams, of Melbourne Road, Sheffield, pleaded guilty to supplying class A drugs.

"MDMA, or ecstasy, is classed as class A for a reason, as has been demonstrated in this case," Judge Richardson told the court.

"It's an exceptionally dangerous drug. It can cause the death of anyone who takes it.

“To characterise it, as some do, as a recreational drug is a monstrous misuse of language.

“It is a killer."

James Bourne-Arton, defending Lavin, said: “Miss Lavin will never again be involved in drugs of any sort.

“It’s clear that her remorse is not driven by self-pity but as a result of the loss of her friend.”

Dermot Hughes, defending Williams, said his client was “fundamentally a decent young man”.

He said: “He made a mistake and the consequences will be serious and life-long.”

Speaking after the hearing, Detective Constable Liz Kooper, who led the investigation, said Lavin had told Joana and her friends she knew someone she could get ecstasy from.

She added: “Lavin subsequently bought the drugs, from Benjamin Williams, and her friends each paid her for it. Some of the group, including Joana, then took the drugs over the course of the night.”

In the early hours of the following morning, police received a call from the hospital to say that Joana had been taken ill. She was put on life-support but died at 10pm later that evening.

Det Con Kooper continued: “Lavin, 22, was arrested later that day and MDMA and cannabis were found in her room. During the course of our enquiries we discovered that Lavin had bought the drugs from Benjamin Williams, 26, who handed himself in two days later.

“They were later changed and both appeared before Sheffield Crown Court today for sentencing in connection to Joana’s death.”

Det Con Kooper also warned other students of the consequences of taking drugs and said she hoped the case acted as a ‘stark warning’.

She added: “A family have lost their daughter, friend and sister and while today’s result may offer some justice for them, it can’t and won’t ever bring Joana back. My thoughts are with her family .

“I only hope that this case reminds people and serves as a stark warning about the danger and potentially lethal consequences taking drugs can have. Please, don’t risk it.”