Four men cleared of being part of alleged cocaine ring with links to Sunderland, Hartlepool and Merseyside

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FOUR men have been cleared of being part of an alleged cocaine ring.

Two men from Hartlepool and two from Sunderland were found not guilty on a judge’s direction of conspiracy to supply cocaine between January and March 2013.

It followed successful applications by their lawyers for the charges to be dismissed during a trial, involving five others, at Teesside Crown Court yesterday.

Barristers for the accused argued the prosecution had not proved the case against them for a jury to have to decide.

Not guilty verdicts for the cocaine charge were read out for Lee Haggan, 37, of Campbell Road, and Neil Jackson, 42, of Dowson Road, both Hartlepool.

Kirk Maddison, 31, of Gill Terrace, and Robert Stevens, 57, of Hylton Road, both Sunderland, were also acquitted of the same charge.

A charge of possessing a class B drug was also dismissed for Maddison.

But he pleaded guilty to possession of a class C drug with intent to supply.

He was sentenced to three months in prison suspended for 12 months plus ordered to pay an £80 victim surcharge.

The trial will resume on Monday for alleged drugs courier Peter Murphy, 61, of Hirst Park Drive, Merseyside.

Also on trial for conspiracy to supply cocaine are Hartlepool men David Gallagher, 54, of Wharton Terrace; David Haggan, 42, of Cranwell Road and Michael Jackson, 62, of Kilmarnock Road.

Paul Lawton, 51, of Dellfield Drive, Sunderland, also denies the same charge.