'Very dangerous' Darlington man jailed for 30 years for part in drug and gun supply chain

Peter Riley, 51, initially denied the offences, but changed his plea to guilty before appearing at Teesside Crown Court. Credit: Durham Constabulary

A "very dangerous" Darlington man has been jailed for 30 years for supplying industrial quantities of drugs and firearms.

Peter Riley, 51, was arrested as part of Operation Venetic – a national crackdown on EncroChat - accused of conspiring to sell prohibited weapons, ammunition, and Class A drugs across Darlington and further afield.

EncroChat is one of the largest providers of secure, encrypted communications, often used by criminals.

Police gained access to messages from his encrypted mobile phone which showed Riley had been "heavily involved" in the sourcing and onward supply of firearms and large quantities of drugs.

He had initially denied the offences, but changed his plea to guilty before appearing at Teesside Crown Court on Monday 26 February.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Turner, Durham Constabulary, said: “Riley is a very dangerous man who cared only about making vast amounts of money through the supply of illegal firearms, ammunition, and drugs.

“He did not give a second thought to how lethal these commodities were or the devastating consequences they could have on the communities of County Durham and Darlington.

“By using encrypted messaging, Riley and his associates thought they were untouchable and above the law. But, by working together with experts from the National Crime Agency, we were able to systematically dismantle the network and show them this wasn’t the case.

“I hope this sentence sends a strong message to others who are endangering our communities by distributing illegal drugs and weapons that we will find you, and we will bring you to justice.”

The investigation was part of Operation Sentinel – a partnership initiative targeting serious and organised crime across the region.

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