Jury in drugs conspiracy trial involving defendants from Hartlepool, South Shields and East Durham told to treat evidence 'like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle'

The judge in the marathon drugs conspiracy trial of eight men from Hartlepool, South Shields and East Durham told the jury to treat the evidence “like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle”.
The case was heard at Teesside Crown Court. The case was heard at Teesside Crown Court.
The case was heard at Teesside Crown Court.

The judge has started his summing-up in the trial at Teesside Crown Court, which started on November 11 last year and it has been delayed several times by sickness among the jurors.

The prosecution say that between August 18, 2015, and July 26, 2016, there was a conspiracy to supply cocaine, said Judge Peter Armstrong.

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The case depends entirely on circumstantial evidence and none of the defendants has admitted that they were party to any such conspiracy.

The judge said that the aspects of evidence upon which the prosecution relies includes: 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.

Also the presence of phones and where they were dropped and no longer used after seizures and arrests, observations by police, covert observations of meetings, the use of number plate recognition of vehicles, and the actual possession and movement of drugs as evidence by seizures of quantities of cocaine shown of high purity and the seizures of cash with higher than normal traces of cocaine.

The prosecution also relied upon evidence of the dealings of drugs by text messages dealing with names and numbers, adverse inferences where a defendant tells lies for no good reason and does not give evidence at all.

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The judge said: “Not all these aspects apply to every defendant.

“But the prosecution say when you consider all the evidence that you can be sure there was a conspiracy, the recovery of large amounts of cocaine and cash, that there must have been an agreement.

”The prosecution say that by building up piece by piece provides a true picture while eliminating other possibilities.

Judge Armstrong advised the jurors: “It may help if you think about pieces of evidence like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

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“In other words do you have sufficient pieces of any size to make up such a picture. What you are dealing with is trying to make the pieces make up a picture.

“You don’t start with a picture and see how the pieces of evidence fit into it.

“You have to look at the pieces of evidence and see whether they lead you to the conclusion that the defendant you are considering was a part of the drugs conspiracy.”

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

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“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.”

The defendant are: Alan Baines, 33, of Meryl Gardens, Hartlepool, and Graham Wilding, 33, of Warren Road, Hartlepool, deny conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of Class A between 2015 and 2016 alongside 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.