Tobacco smuggler loses his bid to clear his name at Appeal Court

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An 75-year-old Bury St Edmunds man has failed an Appeal Court bid to clear his name after he was convicted of smuggling tobacco and alcohol.

William Charles Walker, 75, was given a 12-month suspended sentence at Ipswich Crown Court in March.

Walker, of Beetons Way, was prosecuted after a community support officer spotted suspicious cases in the back of his van while on her beat in the town in October 2011.

A more intensive search uncovered 2,000 cigarettes, several cases of beer and two kilos of rolling tobacco, Mrs Justice Swift told London’s Appeal Court.

A further search of Walker’s home revealed 36 litres of beer and £64,000 in cash, although it was later established that the cash came from a bond he had cashed in.

At trial, the prosecution relied on a suspicious ‘pattern of behaviour’ - demonstrated by 80 trips made by Walker to France between 2006 and 2010 - although he was never charged in relation to those trips.

But he was prosecuted in relation to a further 22 trips made to France between 2010 and 2011, said the judge.

Walker initially told police he needed the rolling tobacco to fund his 40-a-day habit - but later conceded that he ‘didn’t smoke at all’.

Prosecutors also relied on the evidence of a pub landlady who said Walker was a familiar figure in her bar ‘supplying customers with cartons of cigarettes and rolling tobacco’.

At trial, Walker insisted the contraband goods were his own or friends consumption.

But he was convicted by the jury, receiving the 12-month sentence suspended for two years. The judge also imposed a 150-hour unpaid work order.

His case reached the Appeal Court as he challenged his convictions with claims that the jury’s verdict was ‘unsafe’.

Walker’s legal team claimed the trial judge should have excluded evidence of a previous conviction for dishonesty dating back to the 1970s.

But Mrs Justice Swift, sitting with Lord Justice Treacy and Mr Justice Green, said that the trial judge was entitled to exercise his discretion as he did.

Noting that the prosecution case against Walker had been ‘extremely strong’, she ruled there was no basis for any complaint that his trial was unfair.