Former Leamington pub landlord jailed after being caught with more than £180,000 of criminal cash

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He got mixed up as a courier for sophisticated criminal gangs in Europe

A former Leamington pub landlord has been jailed after being caught with more than £180,000 of criminal cash.

Jason Docker, the ex-landlord of the Cricketers Arms pub in Archery Road, Leamington, pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to a charge of concealing criminal property.

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Docker (51) of Warwick New Road, Leamington, who also had a controversial encrypted phone on him when he was arrested, was jailed for 22 months.

Warwick Crown Court at Warwickshire Justice Centre.Warwick Crown Court at Warwickshire Justice Centre.
Warwick Crown Court at Warwickshire Justice Centre.

Prosecutor Paul Mitchell said that on May 29 Docker was seen driving a black Chrysler Voyager northwards on the M40, and was followed until he turned off onto the A46 Warwick by-pass.

He was then stopped, and when the car was searched the officers found that behind the front seat was a hidden compartment which was secured by a magnetic lock.

The officers forced it open, and inside they found four carrier bags containing a total of £183,990 in cash.

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From the car they also recovered a BQ Aquaris phone which had the controversial and expensive EncroChat encryption software on it – which is said to be used by criminal gangs in Europe.

Mr Mitchell said that until very recently the phones had been considered impossible to access without the contents being deleted, ‘but it has recently been possible to do so.’

And information and messages discovered on the phone showed it had been used since at least April 1 to direct the picking up and distribution of large sums of cash.

“It can be attributed to the defendant from at least the 16th of April, because evidence shows it travelling to places all over the country at the same time that his own personal phone has travelled to them.

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“And there are messages to pick up and to travel to particular places, and he then travels to those places.”

Mr Mitchell pointed out that Docker had first entered his guilty plea on the basis that it had been a one-off, and that the phone was not his – ‘but the evidence clearly shows it was.’

Rebecca Wade, defending, said: “Of course we accept this was sophisticated in nature because of the hiding place, but he was only insured on that vehicle from two days before.

“It’s accepted he was a courier and was acting on directions, and it’s clear from the EncroPhone that he was being instructed where to go.”

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Miss Wade said that for over 50 years Docker had led a law-abiding and blameless life.

After growing up in Leamington, he had moved to Australia in his early 20s and married an Australian national with whom he had a son, but he returned in 2014 after the marriage ended.

“Having arrived back, he wasted no time building up a new life for himself. He took over the management of the Cricketers Arms pub, which he ran successfully until December last year.

“Plainly he has facilitated organised criminals to move large sums of money around the country, but I would submit Your Honour could pass a sentence which could be suspended.”

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She said that after leaving the pub in December, Docker had sought odd jobs, but those disappeared when Covid-19 struck and he was then approached to ‘make deliveries.’

But Recorder Charles Falk commented: “What I’m wrestling with is: how does a man of good character get into the position where highly organised and sophisticated criminals have developed a high degree of trust in this man?”

Miss Wade replied: “As a landlord of a pub he meets people from all walks of life. He was contacted and asked if he wanted driving work, and he took the person up on the offer. He made a huge error of judgement.”

Recorder Falk told Docker: “You pleaded guilty to concealing criminal property, a substantial quantity of cash.

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“Up until that point you were a man of good character, a hard-working man who had been the landlord of a pub in Leamington.

“You were stopped on the A46 in a black Chrysler Voyager with no keeper registered to it, but insured in your name, and it had a hidden smuggling compartment.

“You had a specialised phone designed to be used with the EncroChat messaging system. Such phones cost several thousand pounds, and the subscription to the service likewise costs several thousand pounds.

“I accept your role was that of a courier, but that was a significant role because whoever recruited you knew a high degree of trust could be placed in you.

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“I accept you are no danger to the public, and I accept you are unlikely to come before the court again.

“However, the fact is you took a gamble. You were prepared to take on a high degree of risk, and to do that you must have been expecting a high degree of reward.

“You were providing a service to sophisticated criminals. If that gamble fails, then punishment must follow.”