Mercy for earl snared into drug dealing

THE EARL of Hardwicke and his former business partner walked free from court yesterday, despite their drug dealing conviction, after a jury said their "ensnaring" by the media merited "extreme mercy".

The jury insisted it would not have convicted the defendants if the law had been different. "Had we been allowed to take the extreme provocation into account we would have reached a different verdict," they said in a note. Judge Timothy Pontius accepted their plea and suspended the sentences.

In a trial which saw the Investigations Editor of the News of the World, Mazher Mahmood, defending his actions almost as much as the men in the dock, the jury heard that the Conservative peer and his partner, Stefan Thwaites, had snorted cocaine in a suite at the Savoy Hotel, unaware that they were being secretly recorded.

A day later, Martin Hicks of the prosecution team said, the 28-year-old earl met the man he believed to be "Sheikh Mohammed", and one of his make- believe aides, to hand over a second consignment.

The jury found Hardwicke guilty of one count of being concerned in the supply of 2.44 grams of cocaine to Mr Mahmood on 2 September last year. They also convicted him of supplying 1.49 grams to the journalist a day later.

Thwaites, 29, who used to help the earl run a south London scooter franchise, was found guilty of supplying the 2.44 grams of the class A drug.

However, after returning their verdicts, they took the highly unusual step of declaring in a note: "The jury would like to say the circumstances surrounding this case have made it very difficult for us to reach a decision."

Both men seemed stunned at the verdicts but their fears turned to elation when the judge said that while prison sentences were inevitable, theywould be suspended.

"I have concluded with some degree of hesitation that the circumstances are, by virtue of the jury's clearly stated views, so exceptional that I am justified in suspending the operation of the prison sentences," he said.

The two years received by Hardwicke and the 15 months given to Thwaites will both be suspended for two years.

But, the judge added, if it had not been for the jury's plea and the way the men were entrapped, they would have been looking at up to four years in jail.

The defence team had attacked the character of Mr Mahmood, describing him as "slippery as an eel and about as treacherous as a snake".

During the trial at Blackfriars Crown Court, the jury heard three days of evidence from the News of the World journalist, who denied inciting the aristocrat and Thwaites to break the law. He rejected as "ludicrous" a suggestion that he "spiked" the men's drinks.

Despite the leniency requested by the jury, Judge Pontius had stern words for the party-loving defendants: "Neither of you were driven by need, poverty or depravation."

The judge said he had taken into account the fact that Hardwicke, of Barons Court, west London, had been cautioned previously for possessing small amounts of heroin and cocaine.

But he added: "Journalists in general... should carefully examine their approach to investigations where there is no police participation."

The aristocrat's solicitor, Nicola Finnerty, said: "It is obviously a great relief to Lord Hardwicke and his family that this matter is now over."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Real Staffing - Leeds - £18k+

£18000 - £27000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester - Progressive Rec.

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London