A MAN who was caught bringing 10kg of cocaine valued at more than £800,000 into the North-East has been jailed.

Francis Cain, from Liverpool, was pulled over by police on the A1(M) near Bowburn, in County Durham, at about 10.50am on September 23, when officers discovered packages of drugs concealed in a secret panel in the side of his white Mercedes van.

The 45-year-old, of Netherley, pleaded guilty to possessing cocaine with intent to supply.

Durham Crown Court heard the drugs had been found behind a “sophisticated” hidden panel, which had been left slightly ajar and was spotted by a Durham Police officer.

Shaun Dryden, prosecuting, said ten packages were found in the compartment, each weighing one kilogram.

Testing on one of the packages revealed it had a purity of 81 per cent – described as of “import quality” – which would have a wholesale value of £325,000 and street value of about £800,400.

The court heard Cain was still on licence, having been released from prison 12 months prior to the incident. He had been given a nine-year sentence in 2014 for conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Ashraf Khan, mitigating for Cain, said: “There’s very little that can be said on behalf of Mr Cain. Within 12 months of being released on licence for a very similar offence, he finds himself in the dock again to be sentenced for another serious drugs offence.”

He added that Cain had cooperated with police to show them how to work the mechanism to open the secure panel and said three references had been made on his behalf.

He added: “They do show a slightly different side to the defendant. They paint him as a man who is caring, family orientated and concerned for the welfare of his partner and children.”

Handing him a jail sentence of 12 years, Judge James Adkin said Cain must have links to the importation of the drugs and must have expected to make significant financial gain.

He added: "The amount of cocaine is double the indicative amount in the guidelines. The drugs were were import quality and the device which was concealing them was of some sophistication.

"You are a professional criminal."

He was also banned from driving for two years under laws which allow such orders to be made if a vehicle has been used to commit a crime.