Drugs conviction of South Shields man who claimed he won £42,000 from gypsies in fight bets was not 'illogical'

The guilty verdict against a drugs courier who claimed he had won £42,000 in cash from gypsies by betting on fights at Appleby Fair was not “illogical and inconsistent”, judges have decided.

Tuesday, 26th January 2021, 7:00 am

Darren Gates, from South Shields, was the only defendant convicted by a jury at the end of the marathon trial of eight men suspected of plotting together to supply cocaine.

Gates, 50, who was jailed for six-and-a-half years at Teesside Crown Court, lost his appeal to clear his name at London’s Court of Appeal earlier this month.

Full details of his bid to have the 2020 conviction quashed have now been released by the court.

Lawyers for South Shields drugs courier Darren Gates, left, claimed his conviction was "illogical and inconsistent".

His defence team argued that the “illogical and inconsistent” verdict should be set aside because he was the only defendant convicted of the conspiracy.

But the prosecution successfully argued that the charge covered the possibility that he plotted with other unknown persons.

Gates, formerly of Grays Walk, insisted at his trial that around £110,000 recovered by Durham Police following his arrest in October 2015 was legitimately earned and that he had been working as a driver for carers and in property repairs.

The newly-released Court of Appeal documents reveal how he also claimed that £42,000 found in a bin liner in his car “was his money that he had won from gypsies betting on fights at Appleby Fair” and had been buried for safe keeping.

Darren Gates, from South Shields, has failed in his bid to have his drugs plot conviction overturned.

The documents continue: “After he won the money, he had received a phone call from a friend telling him that the gypsies wanted their money back.

“He took the threat seriously. He asked a friend to take the money for safekeeping.

"In October he wanted to buy a boat that was on sale for £160,000. He made arrangements to get the hidden money back.

"He already had £70,000 at home with him and wanted the other £42,000 so that he would have £112,000.”

The documents go on to outline how Gates was going to use the cash “in the hope that the sellers would accept a lower purchase price”.

But experts stated at his trial that the banknotes were contaminated with twice the level of the class A drug normally found in circulation.

Cocaine was also recovered from Gates’s house during a subsequent search by officers.

Three Court of Appeal judges have now concluded: “It was not possible to know what led the jury to find the appellant guilty but, in principle, there was no basis for saying that simply because other, named, defendants were acquitted this meant that the verdict for the appellant was inconsistent.

"On the facts, there were many different evidential bases upon which he could be convicted.”

Five of Gates’s co-accused, who were from Hartlepool, Peterlee, Haswell and South Hetton, were acquitted at the trial with the jury also discharged from reaching verdicts about two other defendants.

The prosecution decided against seeking any retrials.

The three-month trial followed Durham Police’s lengthy Operation Ebony investigation into drug dealing in the East Durham villages of South Hetton, Haswell and Haswell Plough.

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