Newcastle drug supplier joins associates in jail over 'large-scale' pandemic ring

Paul Richardson joins Christopher Finlay and Craig Fraser behind bars. Credit: Northumbria Police

An illegal drug supplier has been jailed for more than 11 years for his part in a large-scale operation across the North East.

Paul Richardson was arrested following a specialist investigation which saw law enforcement infiltrate his encrypted device and uncover evidence of drug-dealing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 36-year-old is now behind bars alongside his associates, Craig Fraser and Christopher Finlay, who together, operated under the radar to source and sell cocaine and cannabis.

Officers from Northumbria Police’s Serious and Organised Crime team led the complex investigation and evidenced the sourcing of the illegal goods and use of hire cars to deliver and drop off their shipments between March and June 2020.

The trio were arrested in December that year, charged, and remanded in custody ready to face the courts.

In spring this year, Finlay and Fraser, both of Blakelaw, were both jailed after appearing at Newcastle Crown Court and admitting conspiracy to supply.

On Monday 30 October, Richardson, of Englefield Close, Kingston Park appeared at the same court where he pleaded guilty to the same charge and was jailed for a total of 11 years and eight months.

His sentence brings the overall total to 29-and-a-half years’ imprisonment for the group.

Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Marc Michael of Northumbria Police, praised the work of his team.

He said: “Illegal drug supply causes pain and suffering in the community as it further exploits those who struggle with addiction.

"It also brings with it the threat of violence and exploitation and we just do not want it here in Northumbria."

Cocaine uncovered by police. Credit: Northumbria Police

Det Ch Insp Michael continued: “Under Operation Sentinel, our dedicated work to tackle serious and organised crime, we will continue to target offenders, build intelligence on their activity, and ensure they find themselves before the courts. 

“We will use every tool at our disposal to seize and destroy illegal drugs and systematically dismantle the criminal groups behind their supply.”

He added: “Thanks to the hard work of officers and staff, we have been able to put three men in jail for almost 30 years and that’s a great achievement not just for the force but for our communities.

“I hope this result shows how dedicated we are to taking action and would encourage anyone who suspects illegal drug dealing or is worried about suspicious activity in their area to get in touch.”

Anyone who would like to report any suspicious behaviour to Northumbria Police can visit the force's website and use the ‘Tell Us Something’ page.

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