Undercover officer attacked during drug deal

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AN UNDERCOVER police officer was violently robbed after being “set up” during a drug deal.

The test purchase officer, known only as Stu, had arranged to buy two nine bars of cannabis from drug dealer Stephen Armes and went to a meeting carrying £700 in cash.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the officer, who was posing as a user during an undercover operation to target dealers, refused to hand over any money when he was given a white carrier bag containing nothing but foil.

When Armes and his pals Robert Hackett and David Hounslow realised the buyer was not going to be easily duped, they decided to use violence to get the cash off him.

Prosecutor Gale Gilchrist told the court an initial meeting took place at a pub in Sunderland in November 2010 and then moved to a back road in Stoney Lane for the illegal exchange to take place.

Miss Gilchrist said: “Stu was punched in the face and told words to the effect ‘you are being set up’.

“The punch caused Stu to fall to the ground.

“He was dragged around a corner and assaulted further while on the ground as they tried to get the money from him.”

The court heard the police officer was left with lacerations to his face which required steri-strips to repair and a graze to his forehead.

Hackett and Hounslow admitted conspiracy to rob.

Armes was convicted by a jury of the same charge as well as charges in relation to cannabis and cocaine he had sold to undercover officers during the operation.

Judge John Evans jailed Armes, 53, of Southwick Road, Southwick, for five years, Hackett, 37, of Edward Burdis Street, Southwick, for two years and nine months and Hounslow, 48, of Rotherfield Road, Red House, for two years and three months.

The judge said: “The original plan was simply to con the police officer into parting with his money.

“The belief was no one was going to do anything about it because how could anyone go to the police.

“There had been a belief the test purchase office would be stupid enough to hand over his money when given an empty bag containing some foil.

“When that failed the decision was made it would be taken off him by force.”

Tony Hawks, defending Armes, who he said was not a “major criminal”, said: “They were robbing what they thought was a drug dealer. They are all worried they are going to get something extra for the fact it turned out to be a police officer.”

Vince Ward said Hackett has suffered from post traumatic stress since he was the victim of an attack in jail in 2004.

Bob Spragg said Hounslow has never been to prison before and acted “out of character” when he became involved that night.

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho