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DRUGS SELLER WINS APPEAL; BZP conviction is quashed.

A EX-SOLDIER found guilty of selling drug growing kits over the web has had one of his convictions quashed after London's Court of Appeal ruled the judge misdirected the jury.

Richard Paul Henderson, 39, of Bassleton Lane, Thornaby, was part-owner of and packer for an internet site which sold kits for home-growing cannabis, magic mushrooms and hallucinogenic cacti.

Henderson was handed a nine-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, at Teesside Crown Court in July last year after he was found guilty of inciting the cultivation of mescaline, psilocin and cannabis.

But one conviction - for selling recreational drug BZP without marketing authorisation - was quashed yesterday after senior judges ruled the jury may have been left confused about the charge. Judge Peter Thornton QC told the court prosecutors alleged Henderson's brother, Stephen, masterminded the business, which advertised "legal highs" and drugs paraphernalia on two sites.

Among the products on offer were guide books on how to grow drugs, and starter packs for cultivating "Afghan number one" and "Skunk number one", hallucinogenic magic mushrooms and "San Pedro" cacti, from which mescaline can be extracted.

The websites also sold "party pills", containing BZP, a legal drug but one for which sellers need a certificate, which neither of the brothers had.

Police arrested Henderson when they raided the company's warehouse on the Bon Lea Industrial Estate, in Thornaby, in January 2008. His brother Stephen fled his lavish home, Birch Hall, Nunthorpe, before he could be brought to justice, the court heard.

The Brass Castle Lane mansion was severely damaged by fire in January last year. The Gazette revealed recently that it has now gone back on the market for pounds 500,000.

Richard Henderson claimed he was a "sleeping partner" in the business and had no idea that what he was doing was illegal, but the jury found him guilty of the four charges.

Lawyers for Richard Henderson claimed there was insufficient evidence to prove his guilt and that the judge failed to clarify the complicated legal charges to the jury. Judge Thornton, sitting with Lord Justice Hooper and Mr Justice Ramsey, quashed the conviction for selling BZP, ruling that the judge did not properly summarise Richard Henderson's defence.

He told the court: "The judge did not sufficiently identify how the appellant was said to have participated, and in what state of mind."

However, the judge rejected claims that Henderson's other convictions were unsafe. He said: "We have concluded that the judge adequately deals with these counts."

The Appeal Court made no change to Henderson's sentence, and ruled he was not entitled to any refund on the pounds 3,000 costs he had to pay.

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FORMER SOLDIER: Richard Paul Henderson
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jul 9, 2011
Words:448
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