Trial starts of five people accused of being part of "high stakes" drugs gang

Teesside Crown Court

Teesside Crown Court

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

FIVE people have gone on trial accused of being part of a trans-Pennine drugs operation involving huge amounts of cocaine, heroin and crack cocaine.

Four men from Teesside and a woman from the Manchester area are alleged to have been embroiled in what prosecutors called "a well-organised enterprise".

A number of other people have already pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, a jury at Teesside Crown Court was told today (Thursday, February 20).

Robert Hickman, from Middlesbrough, Scott Pickering, Jordan Harrison and Danny Wilks, from Stockton, and Hannah Hesketh, from the north-west deny it.

Opening the case, prosecutor Nick Dry told the jury of nine women and three men that the gangs were led by "dedicated criminals" who played for "high stakes".

He said organisers, their second-in-commands and couriers from both sides of the country used hundreds of different mobile phones in a bid to avoid detection.

Mr Dry told the jury that the delivery drivers from the Greater Manchester area who brought over drugs and took back money made more than 100 trips.

The gangs were said to have been working together for 15 months between the end of December 2011 and the final arrests towards the end of March last year.

"It was a well-organised enterprise driven by dedicated criminals motivated by the rewards to be had from the trafficking of large quantities of drugs," Mr Dry said.

"Communication between the conspirators was key. Organised criminals, not least large-scale drug dealers need to speak to those with whom they are doing business.

"The stakes are high, the risks equally so. High-value illegal substances are being transported across the country along with vast sums of dirty money, so you can understand why those involved would only use others they trusted and do what they could to hide the communication necessary to make the arrangements - how the conspirators would be anxious to avoid detection.

"That's why, you will hear, those involved in this case would use unregistered pay-as-you-go telephones to conduct their business, frequently changing telephone numbers and instantly dropping those in use at the time of any police activity such as seizures or arrests."

Among the hauls recovered was a £200,000 consignment of heroin - thrown from a car during a police chase involving two defendants who have pleaded guilty.

The high-speed pursuit started after officers tried to stop a Volkswagen Golf on the A19 near Yarm as it headed back north from a trip to Manchester in March 2012.

Hickman, 28, of Shepherdson Court, South Bank, Pickering, of School Walk, Stockton, Harrison, of Briar Road, and Wilks, of Grange Road, both Thornaby, and Hesketh, of St James Street, Ashton under Lyme, are expected to be on trial for ten days.

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