Pair jailed after being caught in undercover police operation into supply of drugs to students

Two men have been jailed after being caught in an undercover police operation into the supply of drugs to students.

Faisal Ahmed, 21, Thomas Ibbotson, 21, and Harris Khan, 24, were involved in dealing drugs to a decoy police officer over a two-and-a-half month period during an investigation into the supply of cocaine and ketamine in Newcastle.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the police sting was part of Operation Shakespeare, which took on greater priority after a trio of city undergraduates died at the beginning of the academic year in 2020.

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Prosecutor Deborah Smithies said: "In October 2020, Northumbria Police launched Operation Shakespeare. That had the aim of tackling the supply of class A and class B drugs in the Newcastle area.

Faisal Ahmed.

"The operation was focused on the supply of drugs to the student population in Newcastle.

"That had been a high priority for Northumbria Police for some time but it had more so following deaths of three students in the city as a result of drug use.

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"An undercover police officer was deployed in Newcastle on a number of times in order to purchase drugs. He was known as Gaz.

"He was issued with a mobile phone and during his deployment he came into contact with these three defendants.

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Thomas Ibbotson.

"Over the period, Mr Ahmed supplied cocaine and ketamine to him on six occasions.

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"Mr Ahmed controlled the drug line phone which was contacted by Gaz to arrange the supply. He handed over the drugs.

"Mr Ahmed used Mr Ibbotson and Mr Khan as drivers in vehicles owned and insured by them."

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The court heard that Ibbotson's involvement came from driving Ahmed to drug deals on four occasions, as well as being caught with cannabis in his possession in June of last year.

Harris Khan.
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Ms Smithies said that Khan's role involved one occasion where he accompanied Ahmed during a cocaine deal.

All three defendants were locked up by police in June 2021 and a search of Ibbotson's address revealed cannabis with the estimated value of between £4,960 to £8,760, as well as cocaine.

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Ms Smithies added: "Mr Khan's mobile phone was seized and messages from it were recovered that indicated he had been delivering cocaine for Mr Ahmed."

Ahmed, of Usworth Hall, Washington, pleaded guilty to the supply of cocaine and ketamine.

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Ibbotson, of Roseberry Street, Beamish, of Stanley, County Durham, pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of cocaine and ketamine and possession with the intent to supply cannabis.

Khan, of Temple Park Road in South Shields, also admitted being concerned in the supply of cocaine and ketamine and being concerned in the supply of cannabis.

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Christopher Knox, defending Ahmed, said: "He had found himself in debt and this is how he found himself supplying drugs.

"He's got no previous convictions. He was 19 at the time.

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"We've seen a note from him and he is deeply remorseful and embarrassed at what he's gotten his family into."

Brian Mark, defending Ibbotson, said his client had a good work record and was a hard-working employer at his local day job.

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Mr Mark added: "He knows now just how serious it was. Nothing I say takes away from his criminality but what I do say is at the Magistrates' Court he did indicate he would plead guilty."

Glenn Gatland, for Khan, said: "He had two jobs working in a petrol station and working in Subway.

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"That gave him the money to finance the university courses. However, because of Covid there were restrictions in hours.

"His father, for various reasons, was not able to help him financially and he felt a commitment to try and provide for his family.

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"He became a driver in relation to these matters. Since his arrest he has achieved a First Class Honours degree at Teesside University."

Dealing with Ahmed, Judge Robert Spragg said: "You're 21 and come from a good family with a strong work ethic.

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"But you were selling class A drugs, along with ketamine, on the streets of our city.

"What everyone needs to understand is that class A drugs lead to addiction and tragically, sometimes death of those using it.

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Judge Spragg sentenced Ahmed to two years and eight months behind bars and Ibbotson was handed two years and one month.

However, the judge accepted that Khan's involvement with the class A drug supply was far lower and he sentenced him to two years suspended for 18 months, along with 200 hours of unpaid work.