TWO Belfast men were today jailed for a total of three years and three months after police smashed a plot to supply cocaine.
William Joe Hunter (26), of Island Street, in the east of the city, pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court to possessing and concealing criminal property.
He further pleaded guilty to the attempted possession of Class A drug cocaine with intent to supply and also possession of cannabis resin.
Cleaning services company owner Barry Thompson (31), of Limestone Road, north Belfast, pleaded guilty to possession of criminal property, namely £900 in cash.
The father-of-one also pleaded guilty to encouraging or assisting an offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007.
The charge related to providing benzocaine, a legitimate pharmaceutical drug used to dilute cocaine, which was capable of assisting in the commission of the attempted supply of the Class A drug.
The court heard that police mounted an operation on February 12, 2013 and carried out searches at three addresses at Island Street, Glendarragh Mews and Mayflower Street.
Prosecuting barrister Philip Henry said Hunter lived at Island Street but also rented a house at Mayflower Street.
He told Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland that Thompson was at the time living in Glendarragh Mews with his partner.
The court heard both men were arrested at Island Street where police discovered a bottle jack or cocaine press along with bags of cannabis mixed with tobacco.
A CCTV system was also in operation at the house which was fortified with weapons such as bats at the “exits and entrance points to the house”.
He said the house was in “good decorative order and there were a number of luxury electrical in the house”, namely flat screen televisions.
Police recovered £1,800 in cash at the address and the two men were arrested. Thompson had only arrived at the house in his BMW car.
During a search of his car, the court was told, police found a kilo of benzocaine, which the prosecutor described as a “mixing agent for adulterated cocaine and therefore increases the price of those selling cocaine”.
In the car police also found a new bottle jack to replace the cocaine press in Hunter’s house which was no longer working.
The court heard police later searched Hunter’s rented home at Mayflower street, which was also covered by a CCTV system, and found £260 in cash, along with drug paraphernalia, including small sealable bags, two sets of scales and a bottle jack which was in a box.
A search was also carried out at Thompson’s then home at Glendarragh Mews.
A set of scales was discovered and when Thompson was searched he was found to have £900 in cash on him. A further £3,000 in cash recovered was accepted by the crown to have been acquired through “lawful means”.
When questioned Thompson claimed the benzocaine was a gardening product and he had bought the bottle jack on Gumtree for £25.
Mr Henry said police found a number of text messages on Hunter’s mobile phone including ones which contained the word ‘washed’, a slang term used for the cutting of cocaine.
One text said: “Can you get me benzo tomorrow chum?”
Another read: “Is there any cocaine there mate? Heading to Kelly’s tonight. Can you get me some grass?”
A third text message read: “Can you get me any tablets?’
The prosecution lawyer said it was the police view that Hunter was concerned in the supply of drugs.
The court heard that in April 2012, Thompson received a nine-month suspended sentence for possessing class B drugs and cultivating cannabis.
Hunter, Judge McFarland was told, had no convictions for supplying drugs but had convictions for simple possession of cannabis.
A defence barrister for Thompson, who runs Diamond Cleaning Services, said he had drug addiction problems and but had been drug free now for two years.
Hunter’s defence barrister said he had been addicted to drugs from a young age which had led to a life of criminality.
This he said he spiraled when he moved from north Belfast to the east of the city where he got himself involved with criminals in the supply of drugs.
The barrister said the reason why the weapons were in the house at Island Street was because he had received a number of “paramilitary beatings” in the past. “They were for self defence.”
He said father-of-three Hunter now realised that his criminal activities were “having a devastating impact on his children and needs to turn away from it.”
Judge McFarland sentenced Hunter to 32 months, with one year and four months in custody and the remaining 16 months on licence.
The Belfast Recorder sentenced Thompson to 28 months, with 14 months in custody and the remainder on licence following his release.
The trial judge also activated Thompson’s nine month suspended prison sentence which he said was to run consecutively to Thompson’s 28 month sentence.