A GANG of drug dealers have been locked up after a courier was stopped with half a kilo of cocaine and two kilos of cannabis worth £70,000.

Drug courier Joanne Cooke was pulled over on the A19 near Crathorne, Yarm, in April 2016, and her arrest led to the dismantling of a network shipping kilos of drugs from the North West to the streets of Teesside on a least 70 occasions.

Liverpool drug kingpin Dennis Dawrant Jnr, 43, was brought down after his courier was stopped by Cleveland Police, Teesside Crown Court heard.

The Northern Echo: Dennis Dawrant JnrDennis Dawrant Jnr

The judge heard how police estimated that the organised crime gang brought at least £1m worth of drugs into the Teesside area.

His father, Dennis Snr; ‘warehouseman’ Edward Metcalfe; Alan McCaig; and Stephen Folan, were all sentenced for their role in the million-pound enterprise.

The court heard how the gang, predominantly based on Merseyside, would regularly bring cocaine and cannabis into Teesside with the drugs being dropped off with members of a supply network operating in the area.

Two of the couriers, Cooke and Folan, travelled across the Pennines on up to 20 occasions each.

The Northern Echo: Joanne CookeJoanne Cooke

Following Cooke's arrest, the gang continued to deliver their product to the Teesside arm of the operation.

Judge Paul Watson QC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, branded the gang’s dealing as a ‘plaque on society’ as he jailed them.

Members of the Teesside gang are due to be sentenced tomorrow as Covid restrictions are limiting the number of people allowed inside the courtroom at one time.

The Northern Echo: Dennis Dawrant SnrDennis Dawrant Snr

The judge said: “The trade in drugs, particularly class A, is a plague on society in general but most particularly in economically deprived areas.

“Class A drugs like cocaine are highly addictive and the misery and damage to physical and mental health that addiction causes, is all too familiar to those who practice and sit in criminal courts.

“The wider impact on society cannot be underestimated, as well as the obvious costs of treatment and rehabilitation, addicts invariably resort to crime in order to satisfy their craving.

“At a higher level, the drug trade whether in Class A or B, the astronomical profits it generates, frequently gives rise to gang rivalry and turf wars which lead to public disorder and serious violence.”

The Northern Echo: Edward MetcalfeEdward Metcalfe

All of the defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A and Class B drugs apart from Folan who was found guilty following a trial.

The Northern Echo: Alan McCaigAlan McCaig

Dawrant Jnr, of Capricorn Crescent, Liverpool, was jailed for 12 years; 62-year-old father, of Vale Street, Denbigh, was jailed for eight years and six months; Metcalfe, 60, of Green Bank Drive, Liverpool, was also sentenced to eight years; McCaig, 64, of Fine View Crescent, Stranraer, was sentenced to five years and four months; Cooke, 36, of Trentham Avenue, Liverpool was jailed for four years and eight months; and 37-year-old Folan, of Northumberland Street, Liverpool, was sentenced for seven years and six months.

The Northern Echo: Stephen FolanStephen Folan

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated Teesside Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054