Sunderland drugs gang in court after undercover sting to remove 'scourge' of heroin from city

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An undercover police officer who posed as a drug user to try and rid Sunderland city centre of heroin has been praised by a judge.

Judge Tim Gittins was sentencing five Sunderland men, who were snared after a female officer posed as a user who was looking to buy drugs in the city.

The covert operation was launched in 2015 after complaints and concerns from members of the public about drug use.

Neville Watson, 36, of Tatham Street, Michael Podd, 36, of Tower Road, David Todd, 47, of Upper Walworth Way, Darren Fletcher, 36, of Tatham Street, and Lee Angus, 32, of Eden Vale, all in Sunderland, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply a class A drug at Newcastle Crown Court today.

Judge Gittins said the officer engaged in "such dangerous and valiant work" in an effort to bring dealers to justice.

He added: "It is obvious and it cannot be stated too often, class A drugs are a scourge on communities. across the country, across cities, particularly heroin.

"It causes problems for those who take it and it overwhelms individuals and leads to further crime.

"It causes problems not just for the general public but friends and relatives who have to deal with the aftermath."

Judge Gittins told the men: "People like you, addicts who supply others on the street, mean the money makers, those who are actually responsible for supplying you, are rarely put before the courts and punished because of the level of protection your dealing on their behalf creates.

"Society is poorer because you did not have the strength of character to resist the temptation to fund your own addictions.

"It was such a blight on Sunderland city centre that so many complaints were received by the police they began an undercover operation targeting street dealers in 2015.

"All five of you were supplying wraps of heroin, small amounts of £20 at a time, directly or indirectly to the female undercover officer, who did such dangerous and valiant work."

Watson, who was involved in 16 deals to the officer, was jailed for three years and three months.

Podd, who was involved in four deals and admitted unrelated offences of theft and having a bladed article, was jailed for three years.

Todd, who was involved in 10 deals, was sentenced to 22 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with rehabilitation and programme requirements.

Fletcher and Angus, who were involved in just one deal each, were both sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with programme and rehabilitation requirements.

The court heard all five men have made efforts to change and stay away from trouble after their arrests and have been involved with agencies who can support them.