Ex-Olympic hopeful jailed

PUBLISHED: 13:01 07 November 2007 | UPDATED: 15:19 12 May 2010

A FORMER member of Britain s Olympic judo squad was jailed for 13 years today (Tuesday) after a jury heard how he hurled packets of cocaine out of his Mercedes during a high-speed police chase. Gregory Champness, who was a reserve for the 1976 Montreal O

A FORMER member of Britain's Olympic judo squad was jailed for 13 years today (Tuesday) after a jury heard how he hurled packets of cocaine out of his Mercedes during a high-speed police chase.

Gregory Champness, who was a reserve for the 1976 Montreal Olympics, sped through villages at between 80 and 90mph.

As the armed officers pursued him through the East Herts villages he threw nearly a kilo of uncut cocaine - at 80 per cent purity - out of the window.

The prosecution at St Albans Crown Court said it was worth between £25,000 to £30,000, but if sold in gram deals it could have brought in anything between £39,800 pounds to £79,600 pounds.

Champness, 49, of Lilac Cottage, Hare Street, Buntingford, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, possessing a Class A drug with intent to supply to persons unknown and dangerous driving. A jury convicted him of all charges.

Jailing him Judge Marie Catterson said: "You were playing for very high stakes. It is plain you had been involved in a conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

She continued: "You drove dangerously with reckless disregard for other road users at reckless speeds on single carriageway roads in the dark."

The court heard Champness had been under surveillance by officers on the day of the chase - December 7, 2005 - as he visited locations in London before returning to Herts.

Armed officers ordered him to stop him on the A10 in Herts, but despite guns being pointed at him Champness drove off over the middle of a roundabout and along the B1368 Braughing Road.

The jury heard the Mercedes touched speeds of between 80 and 90mph as it went through a number of villages where the limit was 30 mph. It went through red lights and onto the wrong side of the road. It passed through Braughing, Brent Pelham, Puttocks End, Hare Street and Great Hormead.

Eventually it left the road and drove into a field at Brick House Farm, near Hare Street, where it came to a halt

By the time officers reached it, the driver had made off on foot. The car's doors were open and the key was in the ignition. A police dog followed the scent of the driver back to a road where the trail was lost.

Champness was arrested a month later.

Isabel Delamere, prosecuting, described Champness as a man who had no "lawful income" and who regularly travels abroad on short trips to destinations such as Amsterdam, Alicante, Madrid and Malaga.

Chamness told the jury he made his money from trading in jewellery and cars, but did not pay tax.

He said he had not been the man driving the car.

The judge also ordered the destruction of the drugs and the seizure of Champness's Mercedes car. A proceeds of crime confiscation hearing against Champness will be held next year.

Five charges of possession of criminal property against his wife, Maria Champness, were dropped after the prosecution said it was not in the public interest to continue proceedings.

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