My head started spinning, eyesight going blurry and I thought I was going to faint. Surely there must be some mistake! Clearly my Lawyer and Barrister had no idea what they’d been talking about, and the fat Policeman had obviously been lying too! As she led me back down the corridor to the holding cells, the nice young court attendant asked me how it had gone, and was as horrified as me when I told her the result. My ears were ringing and my head throbbing. Maybe I had misheard the judge? Maybe the sentence he had passed hadn’t taken into account the discount for pleading guilty, and the 60% off for assisting the police? Maybe I would wake up any second, and realise that someone had just played a really sick joke on me! As much as I played these scenarios out in my head, I knew deep down that no such eventuality would ensue – the Judge had been very clear in his summing up arguments, and his comments were now echoing around my brain.
“I have read all the notes on this case and I have taken into consideration all the submissions on behalf of the defendant.” He had announced. “Whilst I appreciate the character references offered from members of the community, and rather famous members at that, these only go to prove that you knew what you were doing, but you did it anyway. Although all of your references have attested that you are a fine, upstanding member of society, this only serves to show that you should have known better than to commit these crimes. It is therefore important to this court that we set you as an example to others that you are not able to flaunt the law and walk away with a slap on the wrist. I therefore sentence you to the following…”
He had then proceeded to list each charge separately, passing judgement on each one individually, a total of nine counts – four years each for the first five charges, relating to my first arrest, and five years each for the remaining four charges accrued from the final raid. All to be served concurrently, meaning a total of five years for all of them, of which I would serve half if I were lucky, with the remainder on licence.
Alistair, My Barrister joined me in the meeting room after I had been brought back to the holding cells and we discussed my options. The prosecution had mentioned deportation, something that had been completely new to me. I had been aware of the fact that they were going to try to deport me for overstaying my visa whilst on bail, but I’d had a pretty good idea that I would get off that one – it was such a ludicrous situation that I couldn’t understand any judge upholding it, but now they were talking about automatic removal, because my sentence was over 12 months. This of course opened up a whole new can of worms and had come completely from left field. Alistair had no idea about the legality of this, and advised me to engage an immigration lawyer to apprise me of my options. He then informed me that I still had my Proceeds of Crime hearing to fight, and that now the Crown Prosecution would be going after every asset I owned, claiming that it had all been obtained by criminal activity. At least I had extensive proof that it hadn’t, having declared everything over the past few years and paid tax on it, so I knew they couldn’t take everything, but apparently they would pluck a figure out of the air according to how much cash they thought they could extract, and the onus was on me to prove it’s legitimacy, only serving to prove that the basic premise of justice in this country was now completely flawed – One was in fact guilty until proven innocent, and not the other way around as we had all been brought up to believe.
Some hours later, back in my cell, I related the news of the day to Mark, and re-did all the calculations in my head of how long I would stay here. With five years, I should be released after 30 months, less the two months already served, and the two months I had spent on tag – a total of 26 months – two years and two months! 113 weeks! 791 days! No matter how you looked at it, it was a long time to waste, languishing in prison. I felt sick as a wave of depression and utter futility washed over me. I lay on my bunk staring at the ceiling, wondering how on earth I was ever going to make it through the next 791 days until my release. It had been a long day. I’d been on the go since 6am, the stress and worry had taken its toll, and very soon I fell into an exhausted, troubled sleep.