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R. v. Bilinski

86 Crim. App. R. 146 (1987)

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R. v. Bilinski

England and Wales Court of Appeal, Criminal Division

86 Crim. App. R. 146 (1987)

Facts

Customs officials found three kilos of heroin on board a ship in an English port. Crewmember Edward Bilinski (defendant) initially denied knowledge, but his fingerprints were on the sticky underside of tape on the packages. Bilinski said he was merely a courier who thought the packages contained cannabis, but a search of his room turned up a book about heroin from the ship’s library. The heroin was extremely pure, with a £600,000 street value, but Bilinski said he was to be paid only about £3,500 for taking the drugs from Germany to Australia. Bilinski pleaded guilty and told the authorities what he could, including the names of the men who gave him the drugs. During sentencing, his attorney submitted as mitigating factors that (1) Bilinski thought he was smuggling cannabis not heroin, (2) he pleaded guilty and assisted authorities, (3) he was only a courier who was to be paid a minute fraction of the drugs’ value, and (4) he otherwise had good character. The judge specifically found the claim that Bilinski did not know the packages contained heroin irrelevant and sentenced him to 12 years in prison. Bilinski appealed. His attorney argued that Bilinski’s belief as to the drug’s nature was relevant to sentencing and that 12 years was excessive.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lord Lane, C.J.)

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