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
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

Psychology Teacher

Main Teacher Pay Scale : Randstad Education Leeds: Teacher of Psychology An en...

International Promotions Manager - Consumer Products

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: A global entertainment busi...

Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence Co-ordinator

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: This new opportunity has responsibilities des...

Geography Teacher

£19200 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
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?