A mother and son from Brighton who were involved in smuggling the drug spice into Lewes Prison have been ordered to hand over token sums despite laundering cash totalling tens of thousands of pounds.
Terena and Lewis Swaysland were involved in trying to disguise the drugs as sweets – using poorly resealed Maltesers packets – but were caught by vigilant prison officers.
A third member of the family, Simon Nihill, was sentenced yesterday (Monday 3 June) after he admitted his part in the drug smuggling operation.
Judge David Rennie ordered Lewis Swaysland, 34, of High Down Prison, Sutton, to repay just £1 – and his mother Terena, 56, of Medmerry Hill, Higher Bevendean, was told to repay £39.
This was despite the court being told that they had laundered £40,224.46 and that this was the sum that Lewis Swaysland had benefited from.
But he currently had no assets, the court was told, so the judge made a nominal £1 confiscation order.
Sussex Police said that money had been paid into Terena Swaysland’s bank account from people known to be connected to serving prisoners.
The force said: “Analysis of Terena’s account had showed other monies from unknown sources – and the judge ordered that her benefit was £50,228.04, with the only current asset being the balance of her bank account of £39, so a confiscation order was made in this amount.”
Judge Rennie made the orders at Hove Crown Court under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) on Monday 20 May, having sentenced the pair there on Monday 25 February.
They had both admitted money laundering and Lewis Swaysland had also pleaded guilty to three counts of using a mobile phone in Lewes Prison.
He was jailed for a year for money laundering and nine months for the mobile phone offences.
The sentences are to run concurrently with each other and with the indeterminate sentence that he is already serving for robbery.
Terena Swaysland was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for a year.
Lewis Swaysland’s uncle, Simon Nihill, 53, of Somerhill Avenue, Hove, formerly of North Road, Brighton, admitted smuggling spice into Lewes Prison.
Yesterday at Hove Crown Court he was sentenced by Judge Rennie to nine months in prison, suspended for two years. No confiscation order was sought against Nihill.
Lewis Swaysland’s sister Staycie Swaysland, 29, also of Medmerry Hill, was also charged with one offence of smuggling spice into Lewes Prison. She was cleared at her trial at Hove Crown Court in January.
Sergeant Dan Thomson said: “Our investigation started when Simon Nihill and Staycie Swaysland were arrested at the prison on (Friday) 17 June 2016.
“It was alleged that they had attempted to bring in 22.8 grams of ‘spice’ concealed in two packets of Maltesers, worth about £1,000 inside prison, which were then intended to be handed to Lewis Swaysland among other confectionary legitimately bought from the prison canteen.
“It was the vigilance of prison officers, who noticed the unusually ‘dishevelled’ packets among other items, which led to their arrest.
“The roles of Terena and Lewis Swaysland became clear when analysis of Terena’s bank records and mobile phones seized from Lewis in prison showed vast amounts of money going through her that could ultimately be traced to family of other prisoners, clearly payments for contraband.”
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Richardson, of the Sussex Police Economic Crime Unit, said: “The court found that the Swayslands had benefited by amounts greater than those they are currently required to repay.
“However, it is important to understand that we keep records of all existing confiscation orders where the full benefit amount isn’t immediately available and regularly check to identify any additional assets which have been obtained since the original order was made.
“We can then apply to the court for an increase in the original order.
“We can also seek the help of the South East Regional Asset Confiscation Enforcement (ACE) team, part of the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU), who will contact the offenders to help identify more assets.
“Meanwhile, even orders such as those just granted still send the important message that we will always go after criminal assets even beyond conviction to try to return them to lawful and useful purposes.
“Funds seized by the courts through POCA confiscation or cash forfeiture orders go to the central government exchequer. However, a proportion of this is returned to law enforcement. Similar amounts go to the CPS and the court system.
“POCA-derived funding that returns to this force is distributed equally between the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable. Sussex Police receive 50 per cent cash back from cash forfeitures and 18.75 per cent cash back from confiscation orders such as these.
“We fund financial investigators and financial intelligence officers from part of these amounts to help continue our valuable work in seizing criminal assets, with the remainder being used to support local community crime reduction and diversion projects.”
When the four family members went on trial in January, Nicola Shannon, prosecuting, said that Lewis Swaysland had been in Lewes Prison, serving a lengthy sentence when the offences took place.
Miss Shannon said that “while a prisoner he ran a business within the prison using mobile telephones in order to supply other prisoners with a drug called spice”.
She said: “The material that we are going to talk about is shredded tobacco which had been impregnated with spice.”
It was hidden in two fake packets of Maltesers which were on a tray with two genuine packets but which “looked a bit odd (and) felt soft and spongey, not nobbly as you might expect”.
Former prison officer Ian Lawrence, 53, now a customs officer, was helping to supervise visits on Friday 17 June 2016 when Nihill gave him a tray of snacks for Lewis Swaysland.
It was a “closed visit”, with Swaysland in a different room and behind a glass screen to separate him physically from his visitors.
Mr Lawrence told the jury that the tray contained “four bags of Maltesers, a couple of bags of crisps, a Twix bar and a can of fizzy drink”.
He said: “Straight away I could see two of the bags were a little bit shrivelled. (They) looked like they’d been handled a lot. They felt a bit spongey – not solid like I would expect Maltesers to feel … They felt manky.”
He checked whether Nihill and Staycie Swaysland had bought any sweets from the canteen servery, which was staffed by prisoners. He was told that they had.
Another former senior prison officer Paul Halliwell, 40, carefully unsealed one end of the packet and saw that the contents were not Maltesers.
The pair contacted the prison security team to call the police.
Mr Lawrence said: “Mr Swaysland was becoming quite visibly upset and was becoming verbally abusive. He was making some quite audible threats.”
He said: “If you don’t give me those fucking sweets, I’ll kick off.”
Near by, in another room, Mr Lawrence said that Staycie Swaysland tried to leave with some other visitors.
When Mr Halliwell barred her way, Nihill and Staycie Swaysland shouted at him and she asked: “Are you keeping me hostage?”
Mr Lawrence told the pair that there were concerns about two packets of Maltesers and “the pair seemed to accept that” and remained in the room.
During the case another family member, believed to be Lewis Swaysland’s father, shouted during an emotional outburst about how long Swaysland had spent in prison, serving an indeterminate sentence and not knowing when he was due to be released.