A van driver accused of trying to enter Northern Ireland with £1million worth of cannabis hidden inside beds is to be released from custody, Belfast High Court has ruled.
James Murphy was granted bail amid claims that he had been “used” as someone with a clear record and a serious heart condition.
The 33-year-old was stopped at Belfast Harbour last month as he disembarked an overnight ferry crossing from Liverpool.
Police discovered 66 packages of herbal cannabis concealed within divan beds and mattresses in the back of his Citroen Relay vehicle.
The seizure made on December 20 has an estimated street value of £1m.
Murphy, of Dencourt in Liverpool, faces a charge of possessing Class B drugs with intent to supply.
During interviews the accused told police he had borrowed £4,000 from an unidentified man in his native city to buy the van.
Under that arrangement he was allegedly instructed to make deliveries of beds to the Newry area to repay the debt.
He claimed to have made three previous trips to Northern Ireland, receiving £1,000 payment for each journey.
Murphy insisted he had nothing to do with the drugs and that his fingerprints or DNA would not be found on any of the packages.
Opposing bail, a prosecuting lawyer submitted: “There’s a strong suggestion this has links to organised criminals, it’s regarded as the wholesale supply (of cannabis) from mainland UK into this jurisdiction.”
Defence counsel Joel Lindsay argued that his client cooperated with police despite declining to name those who told him to deliver the beds.
“It’s quite clear he has been used as a courier,” the barrister insisted.
“The reason they used him is because he has a clean record and wasn’t going to draw police attention.”
The court also heard Murphy underwent a heart transplant in 2012 and spent two years in hospital after complications arose in 2018.
His family moved into a bungalow within the grounds of those facilities due to the seriousness of the issues with his new heart.
Mr Justice Humphreys acknowledged: “This is obviously a case with significant public interest given the amount of illegal drugs which were being imported into Northern Ireland.”
Granting bail, he ordered Murphy to put up a £5,000 surety, surrender his passport and banned him from driving any commercial vehicles.
The judge explained: “I have considered the medical evidence in relation to his serious heart condition and the very important fact that he is an individual with no previous criminal record.”
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