THE trial of two County Durham men accused of trying to blackmail door staff into allowing them to sell drugs at the premises has been put back to next year.

Sam Fitzpatrick, 31, and 26-year-old Scott Laybourn are alleged to have approached door staff to intimidate them into permitting them to sell drugs to customers at the bar, on dates between January 15 and 26, this year.

Appearing at a previous hearing at Durham Crown Court via video link from the city’s nearby prison, where they are on remand, both men denied five counts of blackmail.

A trial of three days’ estimated duration was set, with an original date to start on Wednesday, July 20.

But Mr Fitzpatrick is also separately charged with being concerned in the supply of class A, B and C drugs, between March 27 and June 25, 2020, which he also denies.

A trial date for that case was set for September 12 this year, but the two sets of cases have now been joined by the Crown.

Read more: Courier stopped by police in County Durham with drug consignment

Matthew Hopkins, prosecuting, applied to have a new date fixed for both of the now joined matters to be heard.

The earliest date on which counsel for the pair, Graeme Wilson, for Mr Fitzpatrick, and Sufqat Khan, for Laybourn, plus Mr Hopkins, are available is March 20, next year.

Judge James Adkin, therefore, set that date for the trial and extended custody time limits for the defendants, both of Park Villas, Leadgate, near Consett, until March 24.

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