Two people under the influence of a drug ring ‘spearhead’ have been spared immediate prison sentences for helping him launder thousands of pounds of suspected ill-gotten gains.

Christopher Taylor used the bank accounts of a network of family members and “associates” to help him conceal an estimated £657,523 made from what the Crown say was illegal activity, between January 2014 and September 2019.

The now 50-year-old mastermind of the operation was then believed by police to be the local figurehead of a ‘county-lines’ conspiracy to bring cocaine to County Durham from West Yorkshire, while subject to the money laundering investigation.

Taylor, of St Helen Auckland, received a total 16-year prison sentence at Durham Crown Court in October, including six years for the money laundering offence and ten years, consecutively, for the drug supply conspiracy.

The Northern Echo: Drugs supply 'spearhead' Christopher Taylor used his influence to launder money through the

Two of the people said to have allowed Taylor to spirit away money from his illegal activities, through their bank accounts, his partner, Laura Randall, and ‘associate’ Phillip Hall appeared at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday (Monday April 8) to be sentenced for their respective roles in the money laundering offence.

Randall, 38. of Silkin Way, Newton Aycliffe, was found guilty after a trial at the court, on March 3, while 47-year-old Hall, of Newtown Bungalows, Spennymoor, admitted the charge on February 20, at the scheduled start of his trial.

Ian Mullarkey, prosecuting, said Taylor was the “leading figure” in the operation over what was suspected to have been the proceeds of the wholesale supply of class A drugs.

The amounts which went through the defendant’s accounts were said to have been £138,000 in Randall’s case, including £76,577 in benefit payments she was not entitled to have received, and more than £211,0000 relating to Hall.

Mr Mullarkey said Randall’s relationship with Taylor put her in an “invidious position”.

But she had benefited by way of going on expensive holidays with him to Niagara Falls, in 2016, and to New York the following year.

Mr Mullarkey said “substantial sums” were transferred from Hall’s account to “connections” linked to Taylor, and, “it must have been obvious he was involved in criminality”.

The Northern Echo:

Maria Brannan, for Randall, said she is the mother of four children, three to Taylor, who has been responsible for “controlling behaviour”, including domestic violence and threats to her.

Miss Brannan said Taylor would give his partner “instructions” as to what he expected of her, including a fitness regime in which she was expected to go for a 40-minute run on a daily basis.

“She didn’t feel able to refuse his demands throughout the relationship with him.”

Miss Brannan said, similarly, Hall was subject to threats by Taylor and became involved due to debts he had accrued to him.

Judge Christopher Prince said in both cases the defendants before the court have been, “dragged down” by Taylor.

He told them: “In some ways you are in different positions and in some ways you are in a similar position.

“Both of you were under his influence.”

Addressing both in the dock at the court, Judge Prince said he was sure that without the, “pernicious, manipulative and threateningly violent influence” of Taylor, “neither of you would be sitting where you are today."

He added: “You were both used by Mr Taylor and for different reasons you were too weak to do anything about it.”

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Judge Prince passed 21-month prison sentences on both defendants, in each case

suspended for 18 months.

Randall must also take part in 30 rehabilitation activity days overseen by the Probation Service, while Hall was ordered to take part in 38 such sessions.

The judge said he accepted that, “having this hanging over you has been a degree of punishment, as well.”