Jury to continue deliberations next week in case of eight men facing serious drugs charges

The case of eight men charged with supplying drugs across the North East will go into another week as the jury continues to deliberate.
The case is being heard at Teesside Crown Court.The case is being heard at Teesside Crown Court.
The case is being heard at Teesside Crown Court.

On Thursday, following summing up by Judge Peter Armstrong at Teesside Crown Court, the jury went out at lunchtime to consider their verdicts following several weeks of evidence from the trial which began in November last year.

The jury returned on Friday to continue their deliberations, but after still not reaching any decisions the judge released them for the weekend to return on Monday at 11am.

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

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.

The court had previously heard the arrests followed a Durham Constabulary investigation, code-named Operation Ebony which uncovered large scale operations of the illegal enterprise.

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.

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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 jury deliberating the matter have a vast amount of evidence to consider and the judge said the aspects of evidence upon which the prosecution relies include the geography of where the defendants were living, the association between them, telephone contact and their meetings.

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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.”

The case continues