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HMA v Xiao Ya Chen


Dec 23, 2020

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, Lord Boyd of Duncansby sentenced Xiao Ya Chen to 3 years 4 months imprisonment after the offender pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of Ecstasy and cannabis.


On sentencing, Lord Boyd made the following statement in court:

“In September last year, while you were living in Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, you were concerned in the supply of two drugs: MDMA, otherwise known as Ecstasy, a class A drug and cannabis, a class B drug.

On 12 September 2019, an officer from the UK Border Force in Coventry intercepted a parcel addressed to a person in Buenos Aires, Argentina. You were the named sender. The parcel was declared to be a speaker. But inside the speaker was nearly 100g of powdered MDMA and some 60 Ecstasy tablets.

On 26 September you collected a parcel from a shop in Nicolson Street addressed to yourself. It had apparently been sent from a named person from an address in Belgium. You believed that the parcel would contain drugs. In fact the parcel had already been intercepted by officers from the National Crime Agency who had replaced the drugs with a placebo. The drug concerned was again MDMA and was over 3 kg in weight.

When your flat in Nicholson Street, Edinburgh was searched officers found 5 suitcases containing over 14kg of herbal cannabis.

The total value of drugs involved is in excess of £250,000.

I have read the criminal justice social work report. You claim to have had no knowledge that you were involved in criminal behaviour and that you were simply acting at the behest of your employer. You also claim that you were forced to travel to this country to work in order to pay off your husband’s debts. That claim gave rise to legitimate concerns that you were a victim of trafficking.

That matter has been the subject of investigation by the Home Office as the single competent authority. I have been told today that after investigation, the competent authority has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that you are the victim of modern day slavery.

While I can accept that there were others involved in this operation at a higher level than you, I cannot accept that you were unaware that you were involved in criminal behaviour or that your role was insignificant.

As well as the 5 suitcases of cannabis the police found all the paraphernalia of someone involved in the supply of drugs: 3 sets of scales, notebooks, tick lists, notations, phones, including one that you had purchased yourself from Apple. There were two plastic bags and a pillow case containing £5000 in cash. Many of these items are forensically linked to you.

The new iphone was examined. Wechat messages discussed the exchange of money and the posting of goods and SMS conversations discussed meeting times, the exchange of money, and debts owed to the user of the handset. The notes App has tick lists within it. There are also messages that discuss the quality of goods and various weights, “selfie” photographs of yourself and photographs of Rolex watches, designer handbags and their price tags.

The trafficking in drugs, particularly class A drugs is a serious offence. It wrecks lives and blights communities where drugs take hold. Normally offences as serious as this one involving these quantities of drugs would attract a long prison sentence.

I have however listened carefully to all that has been said on your behalf. While you are not a victim of modern day slavery I note the circumstances which led you to come to the UK. Your then husband had run up large gambling debts with loan sharks. It was apparently expected that you would be responsible for paying off your former husband’s debts. But it was also expected that you would remove yourself from your country, your family and your children in order to do so.

These are shocking circumstances in which you find yourself. You are an educated women far from your family and children. You are a first offender.

If it were not for these factors the sentence I am about to impose would be longer.

On charge 1, had you been convicted after trial, I would have imposed a sentence of 5 years in prison. You pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and accordingly I shall reduce the sentence to one of 3 years 4 months recognising the utilitarian value of the plea.

On charge 2, I shall impose a sentence of 16 months in prison reduced from two years.

These sentences shall run concurrently and be backdated to 28 November 2019.”

23 December 2020