A judge has asked for an update from police on their efforts to trace a still-at-large drugs offender months after he was jailed in his absence.

During a brief pre-Christmas court ‘mention’ in the case, Recorder Gurdial Singh asked if there was any news in the bid to locate a convicted County Durham cocaine dealer, who he dubbed, “The Scarlet Pimpernel”, after the elusive fictional protagonist in the French Revolutionary stage play and novel.

Peter Hudson, 27, was sentenced to 14-years’ imprisonment after being convicted in his absence of being concerned in the supply of cocaine hydrochloride, following a four-day trial at Durham Crown Court, in August.

The Northern Echo: Cocaine dealer Peter Hudson convicted and jailed in his absence at Durham Crown Court this week

Hudson, of Birch Road, West Cornforth, was alleged to have been involved in the supply of the class A drug at the height of the Covid pandemic, between April and June, 2020.

He was arrested later that year, when quantities of cash were found at his home and in the glove box of his car, amounting to £14,000.

Hudson denied committing the offence at a plea hearing he attended at the court, in February, after which he was bailed pending the trial date in August.

But, having failed to attend two pre-trial hearings, at the court in June, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.

The warrant had not been executed by the start date for the scheduled trial, on Monday August 7, so Judge Jo Kidd decided in the absence of any explanation for his absence to proceed with the case.

He was convicted after the jury returned a guilty verdict following 43 minutes’ deliberation on the fourth day of the hearing and Judge Kidd passed the 14-year prison sentence.

The Northern Echo:

A timetable was also set for proceeds of crime inquiries to see what money or assets could be confiscated from Hudson, on top of the £14,000 already seized upon his arrest in 2020.

Mentioning the case in the last week of court sittings of the year, on December 21, Recorder Singh asked prosecuting counsel Rebecca Brown: “Do we have any update as to where the Scarlet Pimpernel is?”

She replied: “No, we don’t. The information we have this morning is that he is still at large.”

Recorder Singh asked: “What’s being done to find him?”

Miss Brown said there is a scheduled Proceeds of Crime Act hearing on January 26, when the court could also be given an update as to the progress of the search for the defendant.

“It’s listed for mention in January, but, given he’s still absent, there no indication we’ll see him any time soon.”

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Recorder Singh said he would order a report from the police for that hearing as to what has been done to find Hudson since the bench warrant was issued for his arrest.

“I’ll order that report from the OIC (officer in the case) or a senior officer involved in the inquiry to see what has been done since June 16 (when the bench warrant was issued) to the current time.”

The crime proceeds mention was set to be heard on January 26.