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Current position on illicit phones in prison needs to be 'corrected'

Deemsters call for new legislation after refusing drug dealer's appeal

Tynwald should consider introducing new legislation which makes it a criminal offence to possess illicit phones in the Island’s prison.

The Staff of Government Division, of the High Court of Justice of the Isle of Man, is urging that the current position 'be corrected’.

It follows the court’s decision to refuse a convicted drug dealer – who ran a criminal network from behind bars – permission to appeal his 20-year custodial sentence.

Kyle Brian Molyneux, who also goes by the surname Johnson, had tried to argue that the sentence he received in August last year was ‘excessive’.

His request for an appeal was heard by Judge of Appeal Cross KC, Acting Deemster Wild and Acting Deemster Cope at Douglas Courthouse in December; their judgement has now been published in full.

‘Unenviable record’

They found the 28-year-old – who arranged for heroin and cocaine to be shipped to the Island – had a ‘long and unenviable record’ which had begun when he was ‘but a child’.

On 2 August 2023 Deemster Graeme Cook sentenced Molyneux for:

  • An offence of affray committed on 21 February 2020
  • An offence of being concerned in the attempted production of heroin from the United Kingdom to the Island on or before 11 May 2020
  • An offence of being concerned in the production of cocaine on 21 May 2020
  • An offence of being concerned in the production of cocaine on 6 August 2021
  • An offence of conspiracy to remove £34,650 from the Island on or before 2 September 2021

Molyneux was brought to justice as part of Operation Achilles – a campaign run by the Isle of Man Constabulary which targeted an organised crime group operating here and in Merseyside.

‘Illicit SIM’

During the investigation an iPhone belonging to Molyneux was seized which showed evidence of his drug supply, money laundering and contact with other criminals.

On 17 September 2021, whilst Molyneux was being held on the segregation wing at the prison, he was searched; a prison issue Nokia phone, which had been tampered with, was located on him.

The phone contained an illicit SIM card; the prison issued SIM was later recovered from the toilet in the reception area of the custodial facility.

“We note at this stage that no offence exists on the Island in respect of phones, nor in respect of SIM cards. It seems to us that this is a matter that ought to be considered by Tynwald. The possession of illicit telephones and illicit SIM cards obviously presents a real risk to public safety and to good order in prisons. We urge that this position be corrected.” - Judge of Appeal Cross KC, Acting Deemster Wild and Acting Deemster Cope

When Molyneux was questioned about the SIM card he confessed he’d had it for over a year; it had been used in four different devices.

He also had access to five different MSISDN – Mobile Station International Subscriber Directory Numbers.

Data from them was analysed and showed contact with other conspirators which linked him to ‘large scale organised criminality'.

‘Entirely Justified’

Molyneux’s advocate argued that the total sentence he received was manifestly too long.

She also questioned how it had been constructed, whether totality had been considered and claimed the court had sentenced him on an ‘incorrect factual basis’.

The advocate also argued that the court had not given sufficient credit for the Article 8 rights of Molyneux, his family and for personal mitigation.

However, the deemsters disagreed saying Molyneux had played a ‘pivotal’ role in a cross-border organised crime group which employed violence, intimidation and had used the vulnerable in its ‘evil trade’ of supplying drugs over a protracted period of time.

In their judgement they stated:

“This was an appellant who had fled the jurisdiction, who committed an offence whilst on bail and then continued to offend in a grave way whilst in custody. He was at large from 8 July 2020 to 11 November 2020.

“Quite how an Article 8 submission could be made in those circumstances we find difficult to understand.

“Insofar as personal mitigation is concerned; we are of the view that the Deemster (Graeme Cook) was generous in affording this appellant any credit for personal mitigation at all.

“He had a bad and relevant record.”

Appeal Dismissed

This, the deemsters said, meant the facts of the case demanded a ‘condign sentence’ adding the 20-year tariff imposed was ‘entirely justified’.

“In this case a deterrent sentence was plainly called for, for someone whom the prosecution described as ‘pulling the strings of the OCG whilst in jail’, and accordingly the appeal is dismissed,” they added.  

“The public must be assured that when defendants are incarcerated they will not be free to continue their criminal activities and that anyone caught so doing must face serious punishment, otherwise law and order in prison would break down.” Judge of Appeal Cross KC, Acting Deemster Wild and Acting Deemster Cope

You can read the judgement in full HERE.

Manx Radio has invited the Department of Home Affairs to respond.

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