Six jailed for more than 30 years after cocaine and cannabis farms found in Sunderland

Newcastle Crown Court.
Newcastle Crown Court.

Six people have been jailed for a total of more than 30 years after a series of drugs seizures.

High grade cocaine with a street value of quarter of a million pounds was found at the home of a handyman, commercial scale cannabis farms were set up in rented flats and detectives found evidence of large scale, high value drug transportation between cities.

At Newcastle Crown Court Judge Robin Mairs said the strength of the 76 per cent pure kilo of cocaine, which was seized from the Sunderland home of married dad Paul Dodds, was an aggravating factor in the case.

And he said the cannabis farms were "thoroughly professional and commercial set ups" capable of producing more than £120,000 profit per year.

Dodds, 52, formerly of Hepburn Grove, Sunderland, and Anthony Willcock, 43,of Chestnut Crescent, Marley Potts, who was there when the kilo of cocaine was found, were both jailed for seven and a half years.

The men had admitted possessing the cocaine with intent to supply and conspiracy to produce cannabis in relation to their involvement in the farms.

Judge Mairs told them: "I am satisfied you were runners, keepers, transporters of the large quantity of cocaine.

"You each played your role for money, though I accept the real profit was made by those further up the chain of command."

The cocaine had been unwrapped when it was seized, which the judge said proved the men knew of the quantity and quality of what they were dealing with.

The court heard the men were involved in large scale cannabis farms that had been set up at Kayll Road Sunderlandand at Queensway, Houghton le Spring.

A third, similarly sophisticated set up was in the process of being prepared at Roker Avenue in Sunderland.

Lee Stokoe, 43, of Pattinson, Washington, who convicted of being the "organiser and financer" of the farms has been jailed for six years and nine months.

He had denied involvement in the cannabis conspiracy but was found guilty by a jury.

Judge Mairs said the farms were "well equipped and well run", which had been set up for less than £4,000 but were capable of producing an annual profit of £120,000.

He added: "They were viable and productive factories, which would have produced considerable amounts of cannabis and therefore considerable amounts of money."

Duncan Miller, 35, of Blackstock Street, Liverpool and Paul Cragg, 33, of Wedgewood Gardens, St. Helens, Merseyside, who is now on the run, both admitted their involvement in the farms and have both been jailed for three years.

Judge Mairs told them: "You would not have come from Liverpool, across the Pennines to the North East of England to carry out your roles had it not been a considerable financial benefit to you.

"You would have been well aware of the professional nature and set up of the farms.

"Great were the benefits but greater were the risks each of you were prepared to run."

Barber shop worker and mum Kate Bruce, 31, of Lambton Drive, Hetton le Hole, was convicted by a jury of being involved in the supply of cocaine, in a completely separate conspiracy, which she denied.

She was linked to one transportation of high grade cocaine from Liverpool to Sunderland.

Judge Robin Mairs said she "willingly" involved herself in the one deal but had been "used" by others.

The judge jailed her for three years.

He told her: "You were involved in the ferrying of kilos of cocaine from the North West to the North East, high grade, high quality cocaine.

"This was a professional and robust conspiracy."

The court heard the offences are all around four years old and since then those involved have stayed away from trouble and tried to re-build their lives with the prospect of prison hanging over them.

Judge Mairs rejected outright the suggestion of any of the jail sentences being suspended.

Dodds, who worked as a handyman, has now left Sunderland, which was his home for most of his life, and had settled with his family outside of the area,earning a legal wage.

The court heard he had agreed to get involved in looking after the cocaine package when he was drunk.

The court heard Willcock was claiming benefits during the time he was involved in the cocaine and is a settled family man.

Stokoe is a businessman whose professional life has been blighted for the last four years because of his involvement in the farms.

The court heard Miller was drafted in to help with the farms because of his trade as a carpenter.

Cragg has no previous involvement in drugs but has since absented himself from the court proceedings without explanation so was sentenced in his absence.

Bruce has a caring role to her children and her father and has as "good work ethic".