A man who went on the run after making a first court appearance for using counterfeit currency has been brought to justice 20 months later.

Kevin Stokes was among three men, including his brother Shane, to pass or attempt to use counterfeit Scottish £20 and £5 notes at various commercial premises, including a fish and chip bar and a Sainsbury’s store, in Durham and Consett in October 2020.

Durham Crown Court heard that examination showed they contained the same serial number and their use was declined at two of the premises.

But they were successful in being able to use them at some of the shops, in one case each buying small value items and paying with fake notes, enabling them to receive more than £18 of legitimate currency in change.

Read more: Warning over crudely-created fake £20 notes bearing 'poonds' instead of 'pounds'

Uzma Khan, prosecuting, said CCTV footage from two of the targeted premises helped to identify Stokes and his brother as two of those responsible, but the third man remains undetected.

Both were identified and made admissions, with Kevin Stokes telling police he bought a lot of the notes from an unnamed source.

They each appeared at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court on January 4 last year and were bailed to further attend later that month, but both failed to appear.

Miss Khan told today’s (Tuesday August 23) crown court hearing that it has emerged there was a family funeral in Northern Ireland which both attended.

But she said Shane Stokes was subsequently sentenced on his return to England and received a six-month prison sentence for passing counterfeit currency, which put him in breach of a suspended sentence, and so was imprisoned for a total stretch of 15 months.

The warrant for his brother, Kevin’s arrest, has only recently been activated, however, leading to his appearance today, via video link from Durham Prison, where he has been on remand in custody.

Stokes, 22, formerly of Hawthorn Crescent, in Horden, admitted three counts of passing counterfeit currency.

It put him in breach of a suspended sentence from Northern Ireland, but the hearing was told it cannot be activated by an English court.

Read more: Middlesbrough teenager caught with £3,420 in dodgy cash

David Watts, representing the defendant, said on his return to England from Northern Ireland he knew he should hand himself in, but, “his head was not in the right place, due to a series of bereavements suffered within his family and other family issues.

“He rather stuck his head in the sand on this issue and waited for the police to arrest him.”

Urging Judge James Adkin to pass a suspended sentence, Mr Watts said the defendant and his immediate family have moved from County Durham to Doncaster, “for a fresh start in a new area”, where Stokes has not been in further trouble.

But Judge Adkin told Stokes: “It’s your fault you have been in custody because you have been on the run for 18 months.”

He said together with his brother Shane and the unknown other accomplice it was, “a team effort, persistent and organised,” in trying to pass the counterfeit notes, sometimes successfully.

Judge Adkin said the offending, “demands an immediate custodial sentence to deter others from doing it.”

He imposed a nine-month sentence, including one-month for his breach of bail by going on the run.

Read next:

               'Crude' counterfeit £20 notes used in Shildon shops

               Some fake shirt scam repayment money may go to public funds

               Fake football kits trader from Saltburn jailed after restarting venture

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