Jail terms cut for Kettering drug dealers who were caught after shooting victim named them

Court of Appeal judges ruled their sentences were too harsh

By Sam Wildman
Friday, 19th February 2021, 9:52 am

Two Kettering drug dealers who were caught when they were named by the victim of a shooting have had their prison sentences slashed.

Kelly Davies and John-Paul McKeegans were each jailed for five years for drug trafficking last year after they were arrested in October 2017.

Their Wellington Street home was raided just two days after Paul Panther was shot in Field Street, leaving him with injuries so severe his leg had to be amputated. Panther, who died five months later from drug use, had named them as his usual drug dealers and as associates of the man who had shot him.

Kelly Davies and John-Paul McKeegans.

Police found 37 wraps of crack cocaine and six wraps of heroin worth £800 as well as £2,000 in cash in Davies' and McKeegans' house. McKeegans told police he had a £1,500 drug debt but wasn't a dealer, with Davies claiming her partner could "smoke 100 wraps in a day".

The pair later admitted possessing class A drugs with intent to supply and were locked up, but only after a two-year delay in charging them which the Crown Prosecution Service apologised for.

Yesterday (Thursday) Lord Justice Males, Mr Justice Goose and His Honour Judge Aubrey QC ruled their sentences imposed at Northampton Crown Court were too long.

London's Royal Courts of Justice heard Davies, 42, had been jailed for five years in 2018 for assisting an offender for her role in the shooting.

She had "acted as a conduit" for Spencer Carr, who shot Panther when he stole drugs from him, and Carr was later locked up for 14 years.

Her drug trafficking sentence - for her third drug trafficking conviction - had been added to her sentence for the shooting, making her total prison term one of 10 years.

But because of the drugs charge delay Davies was not sentenced for all of her crimes in one go, and was instead sentenced two years apart for crimes which happened in the space of three days.

Jas Dhaliwal, who represented her yesterday, argued that the total sentence was "disproportionate when compared with the overall criminality" and said the punishment could have been less had she been dealt with for all of her crimes on the same occasion. He said she had taken positive steps in custody and urged appeal judges to reduce her sentence.

He said: "Ten years is too much."

The court heard 42-year-old McKeegans, who once won an award for turning his life around, had a "terrible" criminal record with convictions for a whopping 170 offences on 65 separate occasions.

He had no part in the shooting and was sentenced only for drug trafficking, with a judge giving him five years in prison after credit for a guilty plea.

Niall Skinner, representing him yesterday, argued that this meant had McKeegans been convicted after a trial he would have got 80 months - just four months short of the highest sentence in the range available to the judge in sentencing powers.

But he said the facts of the case did not merit a sentence at the top end of the range and that a significant increase from the starting point was not warranted.

He said: "In view of his timely guilty plea the sentence could have been less.

"He is a man who has led a lifestyle of having an entrenched drug problem and has done for about two decades...he was supplying drugs that he himself was addicted to."

Handing down their judgement Lord Justice Males said both Davies and McKeegans, who appeared over videolink from HMP Drake Hall and HMP Wayland respectively, should not have received such lengthy sentences.

Davies' five-year drug trafficking sentence was slashed to three years and nine months in prison, to run consecutively to her five-year sentence over the shooting.

Lord Justice Males said: "In our judgement, the appropriate sentence looking at the case as a whole would have been one of eight years and nine months."

McKeegans' five-year sentence was also quashed. His total sentence was reduced to one of three years and six months.

Lord Justice Males ruled: "We accept that the sentence close to the top of the range was not warranted."