Jury goes out to deliberate verdict on trial of eight men - including defendants from Hartlepool, South Shields and East Durham - charged with conspiracy to supply drugs across North East

The jury has gone out to deliberate its verdict on the trial of eight men charged with conspiracy to supply drugs across the North East.

Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 2:10 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 2:53 pm
The case is being considered at Teesside Crown Court.

All eight of the men, from Hartlepool, South Shields, Sunderland and East Durham, deny conspiring to supply cocaine between August 18, 2015, and July 26, 2016.

The trial has been underway at Teesside Crown Court since November with Judge Peter Armstrong finishing his summing up this morning before the jury left the court.

The defendants are: Alan Baines, 33, of Meryl Gardens, Hartlepool, Graham Wilding, 33, of Warren Road, Hartlepool, Gary Mitchell, 42, of Pinedale Drive, South Hetton; Stephen Horner, 24, of Frederick Terrace, South Hetton; Christopher Hickson, 35, of Gloucester Terrace, Haswell; Darren Gates, 49, of Chaucer Avenue, Biddick Hall, South Shields; Dean Pringle, 34, of Little Eden, Peterlee, and an eighth man who cannot be named for legal reasons.

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The court had previously heard the arrests followed a Durham Constabulary investigation, code-named Operation Ebony.

The prosecution said the defendant Gary Mitchell played the lead role in organising the alleged conspiracy which centred around South Hetton and a number of other villages, including Haswell and Haswell Plough.

During the trial the jury had been told that two consignments of drugs, valued at more than £100,000 had been seized.

On December 7, 2015, prosecutors said a white van with a quarter of a kilo of 98% pure cocaine worth £75,000 was stopped on the A19 after visiting Haswell Plough where one of the defendants lived.

And, on January 21, 2016, a white van which had visited Haswell was stopped on the A688 near Coxhoe and in a bridleway officers found a plastic bag with £37,000 worth of the drug in it.

The judge said that the aspects of evidence upon which the prosecution relies include: the geography of where the defendants were living, the association between them, telephone contact between them, particularly the frequency of such contacts, the timing of such contacts telephoning before and after events, the meetings and after arrests.

Judge Armstrong said that the defence argue there was not a conspiracy, adding: “It is for you to decide that is a matter of fact.

“The defence for the defendants is a straight forward denial that that was the case, and that pieces of evidence are not substantially clear for you to be sure of guilt.”

Before the jury left the courtroom to start their deliberations, the judge told them: “You may take as long as you need, you are not under any pressure of time at all.”