Here are some of the most serious offenders who faced justice at Teesside Crown Court in January.

They include a murder, a killer, stalkers, violent men and drug dealers being locked up.

Bar murderer

A murderer has been told he will serve a minimum of 14-years in prison after he fatally knocked out a drinker following a row about a puppy.

Richard Smith-Slater lashed out with a dog lead before delivering four-knockout blows when Craig Gill grabbed hold of him to try and stop him leaving Blakes bar.

The 33-year-old then posted a boxing glove emoji on social media to boast about his violent behaviour in the Newton Aycliffe bar on July 8 last year.

Nick Dry, prosecuting, told Teesside Crown Court that the murder was committed while Smith-Slater was on bail for two charges of causing actual bodily harm but they were subsequently discontinued.

“The murder was committed at a time when the defendant was heavily intoxicated by alcohol and drugs. It is known that he drank 11 pints of beer on that day,” he said.

“The offence was committed in a public space and there were children present.

“The posting of the boxing glove (on social media) shows a lack of genuine remorse on his part.”

The 61-year-old suffered a cardiac arrest and was taken to James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, where he died five days later.

The Northern Echo: Richard Smith-SlaterRichard Smith-Slater (Image: Durham Constabulary)

Smith-Slater, of Bury Road, Newton Aycliffe, was found guilty of murder following at trial at the same court after the jury deliberated for three hours.

Judge James Adkin, the Recorder of Durham, jailed the defendant for life and told him he would serve at least 14-years before he would be considered for parole.

He said “You delivered four punches in very quick succession which hit hard on the head and you could see his head jerk back due to the force of the blows.

“It was not a fair fight, you were half his age, more agile and you had boxing training as a youth, which shows as the punches you delivered were rapid jabs.”


Pub Gunman

A man who travelled to a remote pub with two weapons as he feared being ambushed following a bitter feud has been branded a danger to the public.

Richard Bowser armed himself with a sawn-off shotgun and a reactivated pistol before heading to the Tan Hill Inn with his wife.

The 46-year-old had told a jury that he had armed himself for protection as they drove from their home in a Fiat 500 after being threatened by balaclava wearing man and a car was rammed into his home.

Teesside Crown Court heard how a weekend away at the country’s highest pub ended in violence and one man being shot in the arm.

The Northern Echo: Richard BowserRichard Bowser (Image: North Yorkshire Police)

Sentencing Bowser for wounding with intent and two charges of possessing a weapon with intent the endanger life, after he became embroiled in bitter feud, which erupted into violence at a peaceful remote pub.

Judge Howard Crowson said: “I acknowledge that your admitted threat is to a discrete group within the wider public but those are nevertheless members of the public requiring protection and you declared yourself unwilling to involve the police.

“I am concerned that these conflicts appear to have occurred in public areas with consequent risk to the wider public and yet you were content to deal with the conflict by carrying lethal weapons with an intention to use them to endanger life.

“Your past violent record, your indiscriminately violent behaviour that night and your admitted intention in relation the firearms that you were carrying leave me in no doubt that you are a dangerous offender.”

Jurors had heard how Bowser reacted violently when his bank card was declined and he was unable to settle his bar bill at the Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in England, on July 21 last year.

Bowser was cleared of two charges of attempted murder but convicted of wounding with intent following his trial.

He was also convicted of possessing firearms with the intent to endanger life after he travelled from his home with the two weapons and ammunition.

The defendant had previously admitted assault and possession of firearms as a result of the incident last summer.

The 46-year-old, of Worcester Place, Bishop Auckland, was sentenced to a total of 23 years - 19 years in custody with an extended licence period of four years.


Killer driver

A woman who killed a pedestrian when she knocked her over while she was walking across a pedestrian crossing has been jailed.

Christine Ward switched lanes as she approached the traffic lights as they turned to red and failed to stop as Kim Piper crossed the road when the pedestrian light changed to green.

The 60-year-old, from Darlington was taken to James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, where she tragically passed away as a result of her injuries.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the defendant hit the grandmother as she crossed Victoria Road, Darlington, on her way to work on November 15, 2022.

Keith Piper, the victim’s son, told the court that his mother’s death had robbed him a future he could share with her and told how he had been forced to take time off work due to the mental stress of losing his mother.

And his brother Danny Piper said the entire family had been left devastated by the needless loss of the loving mother and grandmother.

Ward, 64, of Yorkshire Place, Bishop Auckland, pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving when she made her first appearance at magistrates’ court.

Judge Jonathan Carroll told Ward that her actions had a devastating impact on Mrs Piper’s family before he locked her up.

He said: “No sentence I can pass can truly reflect the nature of the harm done. No sentence could deliver to the family what they want most – to bring her back.”

Ward was sentenced to ten months in prison with immediate effect and was banned from driving for three years and five months, The judge added: “This was a tragedy, first and foremost for Mrs Piper and her family, but I also recognise it was a tragedy for you.”


Obsessed stalker

A man who left his ex-partner fearing for her life after he bombarded her with hundreds of calls and tried to force his way into her home has been jailed.

Joe Abbott was so obsessed with the woman that he called her work phone 63 times in an hour during his stalking campaign when he refused to accept their relationship was over.

The 28-year-old was arrested outside Darlington police station when his victim went there with work colleagues to report the continual harassment.

Teesside Crown Court heard how Abbott was made subject of a stalking prevention order following his arrest in October last year but breached it within two days of it being imposed.

In October last year, Abbott called the woman’s work 63 times in an hour after she blocked him on social media before turning up at her home and trying to force his way in.

In a victim impact statement, the woman said: “I don’t think he will ever leave me alone and I will die, whether I jump off a bridge or he kills me.”

The Northern Echo: Joe AbbottJoe Abbott (Image: Durham Constabulary)

Abbott, of Yarm Road, Darlington, pleaded guilty to stalking and breach of a stalking prevention order.

Recorder Richard Herrman sentenced Abbott to two years in prison for the damage that his stalking behaviour had inflicted on his victim.

He said: “She believed that if you got into her house when you tried to force your way in that you would have killed her.”

Abbott was made subject of a five-year restraining order and was reminded he was still bound by a seven-year stalking prevention notice.


Convicted paedophile

A convicted paedophile is back behind bars after he stole more than £70,000 from his mother when he emptied her bank account.

Daniel Bateman syphoned off his mother’s cash over a five-year period and it only came to light when her care home told her she was unable to cover her fees.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the 32-year-old had nothing tangible to show for his cruel deception of his mother.

Tabitha Buck, prosecuting, said his repeated theft had left his mother penniless and feeling ‘utterly betrayed’ by her son.

She told the judge that Bateman had started using his mother’s bank card before transferring cash into his own bank account after cancelling her paper statements and setting up online banking.

“It came to light when she could no longer afford her care home fees of £500 a month and her account was repeatedly overdrawn,” she said.

Miss Buck said the defendant had only recently been released from prison. He was jailed for three years in 2022 after he struck up a conversation with the undercover officer, who was posing as another online paedophile on the social messaging app, KIK.

The Northern Echo: Daniel BatemanDaniel Bateman (Image: Durham Constabulary)

Bateman, of Eldon Street, Darlington, who appeared in court via a video link from prison, had pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation between November 2016 and August 2021 when he stole a total of £72,228.

Judge Jonathan Carroll sentenced Bateman to three years and four months for the protracted period of his offending.

He said: “The victim in this case is your mother. This was not an occasional fraud; this took place from November 2016 until August 2022.

“Your mother was a vulnerable woman; your father had died and you moved in with her and she trusted you manage your financial affairs.

“She had no idea about the state of her finances.”


Violent ex-partner

A man who terrorised his ex-partner when he threw her down a flight of stairs before cutting her face with a hidden blade has been locked up.

Damien Taylor also threatened to crash his car into an oncoming lorry while arguing with his former partner while their young son was in the rear of the vehicle.

The 44-year-old breached the terms of a non-molestation order when he ‘you’re dead’ to his ex-partner when he drove past her and then sent an emoji to her mobile phone, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Caroline McGurk, prosecuting, said the two violent attacks had left the victim fearing for her life and the continued threats had impacted her and her son’s life.

The Northern Echo: Damien TaylorDamien Taylor (Image: Cleveland Police)

Taylor, of Avon Close, Thornaby, pleaded guilty to two charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, making threats to kill, and two breaches of the non-molestation order between September 2022 and March 2023.

Recorder Andrew Dallas sentenced Taylor to a total of two years and two months for all offences.

Dealing with the offence of throwing the woman down the stairs, he said: “That was an incredibly dangerous thing to do, while you were immediately remorseful, there could have been a very serious injury caused.

“Once you pushed her down the stairs it was out of your control – it was a very stupid and dangerous thing to do.”

Taylor was also made the subject of a five-year restraining order.


Cannabis farmers

Three Albanian cannabis farmers found hiding in the loft of a house when police raided it have been locked up.

Alberto Loka, Riza Manuka and Besard Muca, were in the process of setting up the fledgling illegal enterprise when Durham Constabulary stormed the property in Darlington.

All three were arrested at the scene after 51 cannabis were found in one room and vital growing equipment was also recovered following the raid on August 10 last year.

Annelise Augstad, prosecuting, told Teesside Crown Court that police also discovered they gang were illegally extracting electricity when they searched the house on Brinkburn Road.

The court heard how the plants had a nominal value of £510 but once mature were capable of producing cannabis with a street value of £26,000.

Police recovered three mobile phones but were unable to access Loka’s iPhone as it was password protected. The other two mobile phones showed regular phone call between Manuka and Muca.

The Northern Echo: Three Albanians cannabis farmers have been jailed after house raided in Darlington. Pictured left to right Alberto Loka, Besard Muca, and Riza ManukaThree Albanians cannabis farmers have been jailed after house raided in Darlington. Pictured left to right Alberto Loka, Besard Muca, and Riza Manuka (Image: Durham Constabulary)

Loka, 26-year-old Manuka, and Muca, 24, all of Brinkburn Road, Darlington, pleaded guilty to being involved in the cultivation of cannabis.

Recorder Richard Herrmann told the defendants that they were all being treated as low level farmers without any influence on those above them in the supply chain as he sentenced them.

He said: “When the police raided the address the farm was in its infancy, apparently in the process of being set up.

“There were 51 immature plants with a limited financial value but it could have made £25,000 at street value.”

All three defendants were jailed for 12-months but told they would only serve a few more weeks in custody as they had been on remand for five months.


Juror tampering

A juror who almost derailed a £10m drugs trial when she passed on information to the gang’s leader has walked free from court.

Jade Bainbridge let drugs kingpin Daniel Perry know that the jury was on the verge of convicting him for his role in flooding the area with narcotics.

Perry was locked up for more than ten years after he was convicted of buying 'commercial amounts' of cocaine and amphetamine from the gang to sell on the streets of Teesside.

However, 27-year-old Bainbridge almost caused the trial to collapse after being contacted by Craig Osbourne, who was related to Perry, in December 2019 and they tried to persuade her to enter a not guilty verdict.

Armed with the information about the jurors’ deliberations, another member of the conspiracy, Christopher Brierley, called Teesside Crown Court to tell them how he had overheard his girlfriend on the phone with a juror involved in the lengthy trial.

An investigation was launched and the juror Brierley named was quizzed by Judge Howard Crowson under oath before she was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Bainbridge, Perry, and Osbourne all admitted conspiring to pervert the course of justice following the conclusion of the trial in December 2019.

The Northern Echo: Convicted drug dealer Daniel Perry, bottom left, was convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice by derailing his trial alongside accomplice Craig Osborne, top right.Convicted drug dealer Daniel Perry, bottom left, was convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice by derailing his trial alongside accomplice Craig Osborne, top right. (Image: Newsquest)

Alex Menary, prosecuting, told the court that Bainbridge had been recognised by Osbourne through their shared love of cars and acted as the 'conduit' between his two co-accused.

Recorder Aisha Wadoodi said: “Perry, you had the most to gain by having the trial derailed. You have convictions for dishonesty, violence, a number of drug supply offences, firearms matter, and you have had custodial sentences before.”

Perry, formerly of Redcar, was sentenced to 28 months to be added onto the term he is already serving at HMP Northumberland.

Osbourne, 31, of Lobster Road, Redcar, was sentenced to 13 months for his role in the conspiracy.

Bainbridge, of Overdale Road, Guisborough, was given a six-month sentence suspended for 12 months and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.

The court heard how Brierley was jailed in February 2020 for making the phone call to the court.


Drunken thug

A drunken thug who grabbed the throat of his former partner and attempted to strangle her has been locked up for the disturbing attack.

Mark Jenkins reacted angrily to be told to leave her home when he launched the attack on her before fleeing the scene.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the 34-year-old continually harassed his victim while making threats to give her two black eyes.

Jenkins was heavily intoxicated when he carried out the most serious assault on his ex-partner, said Christopher Morrison, prosecuting.

The Northern Echo: Mark JenkinsMark Jenkins (Image: Cleveland Police)

Jenkins, formerly of Hartlepool but now of Station Road, Trimdon Colliery, County Durham, was found guilty of intentional strangulation, assault, and harassment, following his campaign of abuse.

Michele Turner, mitigating, had urged the judge to spare her client from immediate custody to enable him to perform child care duties for his son but the court heard there was no evidence that he played a significant role looking after his child.

Judge Howard Crowson sentenced Jenkins to a total of 21 months in prison for all three offences.

“You went into her bedroom but she asked you to leave. You came downstairs and strangled her for ten seconds – you then left, taking your son with you,” he said.

“The consequences of being strangled can lead to very serious injuries and in fact death.”


Prolific shoplifter

A serial shoplifter’s luck has run out as he was locked up for more than a year after committing a string of offences.

John Halse tormented and terrified shop staff with his repeated thefts, sometimes more than once a day, as he stole to fund to cocaine and drink addictions.

The 27-year-old regularly targeted shops in Hartlepool despite being banned from many of them and would target some several times in one day, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Cainan Lonsdale, prosecuting, said Halse’s latest shoplifting spree left him in breach of a suspended sentence and a deferred sentence.

He said the prolific shoplifter's first offence happened just 12 days after the defendant was given the deferred sentence for a raft of other shoplifting offences.

Mr Lonsdale said he stole four packages of baby milk worth £32 despite staff trying to stop him leaving the Spar on Wynyard Road, Hartlepool.

He said Halse then targeted the One Stop shop on the same street on November 3 when he stole 12 boxes of Quality Street and several other items before returning five minutes later and stealing more goods.

On November 24, he returned to the Spar shop and stole more boxes of Quality Street while acting in an intimidating way towards staff.

Halse then stole three bottle of wine from the Morrisons daily shop on Brierton Lane.

Mr Lonsdale said during that spree the defendant stole £334 worth of goods and £887 worth of goods across his other admitted offences.

The Northern Echo: John HalseJohn Halse (Image: Cleveland Police)

Halse, of Glamis Walk, Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to a total of 32 theft offences, including those he received the suspended and deferred sentences for. He also pleaded guilty to breaching both of those orders.

Recorder Alex Menary sentenced Halse to a total of 13 months for all offences.

He said: “These shop thefts all arise out of your addiction to cocaine and alcohol. It is to your credit that you have had a period of reflection on your lifestyle you are living and taking steps to address the problems.”