Barrister jailed for drug offences fails in appeal against sentence

Hendron: Sentence justified, court says

The Court of Appeal has rejected an appeal against the 14-month jail sentence imposed on a barrister who obtained drugs from two men he was representing.

It described the fact that a lawyer encouraged criminal clients to supply him with drugs as “a very serious aggravating factor”.

Henry Hendron, 42, was sentenced last year after messages on his mobile phone revealed he had asked to buy to buy Class A methamphetamine and then-Class C GBL. He was arrested outside Belmarsh prison in May 2022 while visiting one of the men as his lawyer.

Giving the appeal court’s ruling, His Honour Judge Jeremy Richardson KC, the Recorder of Sheffield, began: “The facts of this case are unique. It is to be hoped that remains the case.”

He described the fact that Mr Hendron was a barrister who had previously been convicted of drug-related crimes but not been disbarred as “unusual and very serious”.

HHJ Richardson rejected the submission that Mr Hendron was only prosecuted for this offence, rather than a lesser drug-related crime, because he was a barrister.

“The decision to prosecute for a particular crime is not a matter for the court. That is the province of the Crown Prosecution Service and, subject to an application in respect of abuse of process on proper grounds, which was not advanced in this case and could not be, we reject this submission without hesitation for one moment.

“We can quite see why the evidential test was met and why the public interest test was also met in this case.”

He went on to dismiss the “much more sensible argument” relating to the judge’s approach to sentencing, finding that he was right to view the supply guideline as key.

“It was appropriate to place the appellant in the lesser role category because the supply which was being encouraged was just to one person in this case.

“In this regard it was right to adapt the guideline to meet the facts of this unusual case. The individual quantities of drugs were inevitably small.”

HHJ Richardson said the court was “perfectly entitled to commence its search for the correct sentence at the level of 18 months’ imprisonment” – indeed, given the circumstances, “it would have been permissible to have started higher”.

Mitigation, including evidence of Mr Hendron’s psychological state, served to reduce the sentence before consideration of the guilty plea. This led to a 20% reduction in the sentence, rounded down to 14 months.

“In the result, we do not consider a sentence of 18 months’ imprisonment to be in any way outside the range open to the judge in this case before consideration of the reduction in sentence because of the guilty plea.

“It seems to us that that was the very least sentence which could be imposed in this case following a trial, having regard to all the very serious aggravating factors which we have identified, as did the judge below.

“It is hard to conceive of a more serious situation in a crime of this kind for a lawyer to seek to procure illegal drugs for himself from a criminal whom he is representing.”

Further, “a sentence of immediate imprisonment was demanded in this case and was appropriately imposed by the judge. No other sentence could possibly be justified”.

HHJ Richardson stressed that neither the court below nor the Court of Appeal strayed into professional regulation or discipline.

“We expressly make no observation about what should or should not be done to maintain the professional integrity of the profession and what professional sanction should be imposed for bringing the profession into disrepute,” he said.

In 2017, Mr Hendron was suspended from practising for three years following his conviction on two charges of possessing controlled so-called ‘designer chemsex’ drugs (mephedrone, known as ‘meow meow’, and GBL) with intent to supply. Tragically, the drugs led to the death of his teenage boyfriend at a party.

The suspension was backdated to the date of conviction in May 2016, when he was sentenced to a compulsory unpaid work order of 140 hours, with a supervision requirement.

Shortly after his return to practice in 2019, he was suspended again for three months after he failed to comply with a determination of the Legal Ombudsman to pay a complainant £850.

However, the decision was overturned in 2020 by the High Court because he was already suspended at the time of the events. The Bar Standards Board admitted that the case had exposed a “lacuna” in its rules and the legislative framework.

Then, in 2021, Mr Hendron was reprimanded and prohibited from undertaking public access work for two years after another Bar disciplinary tribunal found that he had practised during his three-year suspension.

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