A DRUG dealer’s attempt to diminish the role he played in the trade failed to impress prosecutors, who planned to challenge his version.

Billy Stoneman, 22, admitted possessing four different drugs, two at class A, cocaine and ecstasy, and two in class B, cannabis and the synthetic stimulant alpha-pvp, all with intent to supply, at a plea hearing, at Durham Crown Court, on March 22.

It stemmed from a search warrant visit by police, to his then home, in Witton Gilbert, on December 6, 2017.

Barry Robson, prosecuting, said Stoneman gave police a key to a locked kitchen cupboard, from where most of the drugs were recovered.

Mr Robson said the drugs, of high purity, had an estimated sale value of between £11,800 and £14,770.

The court was told police discovered three mobile phones around the property, but Stoneman refused to give them the entry codes, while three driving licences were found in his name, all at different addresses, and £270 in cash was also seized.

Stoneman gave no answers to police questions.

His recent admissions were on the basis he was merely the “warehouseman”, being paid to store the drugs on behalf of others but being fearful of intimidation if he failed to do so.

The court heard that would have been classed as playing a less significant role, which attracts a lower sentence based on the guidelines.

But the Crown refused to accept that basis and the case was set down for a trial of issue, or Newton hearing.

Before that hearing was to take place, however, the defence indicated in writing to the court that the basis put forward was being abandoned, on April 4.

It meant the defendant, of Medwin Close, Bournmoor, was to be sentenced on the basis he played, “a significant role” in dealing the drugs, and, therefore faced a higher starting point in the sentencing guidelines.

Lewis Kerr, for Stoneman, said he has no previous convictions and was facing his first taste of life behind bars.

He said that having worked in France as a school leaver, he found himself in a world of recreational drugs on his return to this country, which led on to addiction.

Judge Christopher Prince said Stoneman was, “an active drug dealer”, but tried to, “pull the wool” over the eyes of the prosecution with his basis of plea, which, ultimately, failed.

Imposing a prison sentence of three years and seven months, the judge also ordered confiscation of the seized money and drugs.