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Churchill's great-grandson jailed for drug racket

<b>Churchill's great-grandson jailed for drug racket</b>

Nicholas Jake Barton was arrested at his Sydney home in June last year during a series of raids.

Sydney: The great-grandson of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was sentenced to three years imprisonment Thursday for his part in a multi-million dollar ecstasy racket.

Nicholas Jake Barton was arrested at his Sydney home in June last year during a series of raids in which officers seized some 250,000 ecstasy tablets worth around 15 million Australian dollars (US$13 million; €8.9 million).

The 34-year-old Briton, who is the son of James Barton and Arabella Spencer Churchill, pleaded guilty before Sydney's District Court last month to knowingly taking part in the supply of a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Judge Colin Charteris sentenced Barton Thursday to three years imprisonment and set a minimum term of 20 months before he can be considered for parole.

With his sentence backdated to his arrest, Barton could be free on parole in February 2008.

The judge described the sentencing as an opportunity to ''temper justice with mercy.''

Barton's mother, the granddaughter of Sir Winston and daughter of his son Randolph, is expected to die from pancreatic cancer by April, the court was told.

The judge said he expected Barton would be allowed to leave Australia to visit his mother before her death.

Charteris found Barton had only a ''belated and limited role in the supply of the drugs seized by police.''

''In determining the appropriateness of the sentence, the fact the defendant is descended from a hero of the 20th century does not affect the sentence I must impose,'' the judge said.

Barton presented the court with a reference from his uncle, the former British lawmaker also named Winston Churchill and is also Sir Winston's last surviving child.

Sir Winston was Britain's Conservative prime minister from 1940 until the end of World War II in 1945, then again for four years from 1951.

first published:December 20, 2007, 11:28 IST