A man jailed as the “lynchpin” of a cocaine-trafficking operation was caught trying to ferry illicit drugs and mobile phones during a prison transfer.

It means Timothy Lister, 49, will serve an extended period behind bars before being eligible for release by the Parole Board from the original sentence.

Lister, then 40, received a 16-year prison sentence at Teesside Crown Court in September 2014 for conspiracy to supply class A drugs, directing what was described as, “an industrial scale” trans-Pennine operation to bring high-purity cocaine and cannabis to the region.

Eleven other defendants received sentences totalling 44 years for their respective roles in the operation.

Read more: Drugs plot gang locked up as police pledge 'no hiding place' for organised crime cartels

Lister was back in court after being found in possession of a range of class C drugs and mobile phones during a transfer from Kirklevington Grange Prison, in Yarm, to HMP Durham, on October 18, 2021.

The Northern Echo: Timothy Lister was being transferred between prisons when caught with drugs and mobile phones

The defendant, formerly of Consett, previously denied possessing class C drugs with intent to supply, plus two counts of taking prohibited items into or out of prison, relating to the drugs and three mobile phones.

But at the start of his scheduled trial, his counsel, John Crawford, asked for the second and third counts (conveying prohibited items into/out of prison), to be put to the defendant again.

He pleaded guilty to both, and the prosecution opted not to proceed on the first count.

Chris Baker, prosecuting, said 288 tablets, all in the class C range, were found either in Lister’s clothing or among his possessions when he was searched on arrival at Durham Prison, following the move from Kirklevington Grange.

Mr Baker said given the inflated value of drugs within the prison environment, a police expert considered them to be worth between £10,000 and £22,000.

The defendant had been allowed to take three bags of possessions with him when he was moved to HMP Durham.

Mr Baker said some of the drugs were found in the waist band of his track suit bottoms, and others in a face mask he was wearing.

This led to a search of other items taken with him, resulting in most of the drugs being found among foodstuffs, including cereal boxes, a jar of peanut butter, a burger sauce bottle, a hazelnut chocolate bar, and a jar of mayonnaise.

One of the mobile phones and a charger was found in a tub of tomato puree, while prison staff also recovered a small bottle of glue, believed to have been used to reseal the cardboard food boxes before Lister was transported between prisons.

Read more: WATCH: Consett man jailed after cocaine and cash found in VW Golf

Mr Baker said the police expert considered the amount of drugs taken would allow for “low-level wing dealing” within prison, giving the seller, “a substantial influence of power” among inmates.

He also said mobile phones would help with the supply of drugs within prison.

The court heard of Lister’s two past relevant offences, one dating from 2008, when he received a 78-month prison sentence for conspiracy to supply class B drugs and possessing criminal property, plus the 2014 conviction.

Mr Crawford, in mitigation, pointed out that the latest offence took place more than two years ago, now, at a time the defendant was on licence from the 2014 sentence and recalled to prison for an unrelated matter.

He said the defendant was only charged with these matters 13 months after the offence, and he was not to blame for that delay.

Mr Crawford said Lister was recommended for release, again on licence, last year and in January this year, but the Parole Board did not to agree to his release with these offences hanging over him.

“The current release date will be subject to a decision by the Parole Board, and they will only decide once the sentence has been dealt with today.

“He’s not on a full recall, so he would need to serve any sentence passed today before parole may be considered and he won’t be eligible for parole if he’s serving a concurrent sentence.”

Read next:

Police vehicle stop in Consett uncovered class A and B drugs worth £73k

County Durham dealer jailed for drugs offences after cocaine recovery

North East gang shipped kilos of cocaine and amphetamine

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Judge James Adkin told Lister he had a bad record for drugs offences and he would know the presence of drugs in prison carry a high value.

But the judge added that he had to bear in mind “totality” when sentencing and, so, imposed a 10-month prison term.

It means that after serving half of the sentence, five months, Lister will be eligible to be considered for parole.