Huntingdonshire drug dealers jailed for running ‘corner shop’ operation

Warren Arnold.

Warren Arnold. - Credit: Archant

Two Huntingdonshire men have been jailed for eight years each for their part in a class A drugs “corner shop” operation.

John Martin.

John Martin. - Credit: Archant

John Martin, 44, of Gainsborough Drive, St Ives, and Warren Arnold, 43, of Ferndown Drive, Godmanchester, were handed the sentences for conspiracy to supply a controlled class A drug at Peterborough Crown Court on Friday (March 13). They were also sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for possession with intent to supply a class A drug, to run concurrently.

Both Martin and Arnold were convicted after a two-week trial on Wednesday (March 11). Charlene Taylor, 32, whose address cannot be published for legal reasons, was told that she would be given a suspended sentence for supplying class A drugs after allowing the pair to use her garage as a storeroom. She pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing and gave evidence for the prosecution at the trial.

Stephen Mather, prosecuting, said that Arnold had 11 wraps of cocaine with him while Martin had a substantial amount of heroin on him when he was stopped by police and arrested on March 18 last year. Police then seized more than £50,000 worth of heroin, cocaine and benzocaine belonging to them.

He added: “The conspiracy ran for a number of weeks - this is what was recovered on the date of arrest and search.

“These are high profit items being dealt over a period of time.

“The other aggravating features seem to be it is quite clear that children were present in the house because Charlene Taylor took her children over and was seen to go in and out of the house by undercover officers.”

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He argued that both Martin and Arnold had leading roles and that they had an expectation of substantial financial gain.

Mark Shelley, mitigating for Martin, said: “There isn’t the evidence that suggests that anything more than a kilogram was dealt with during that period of time.

“On the other hand, to say that this is simple street dealing is probably also putting it too low.

“Perhaps I could characterise it as being like a corner shop organisation – drugs are stored and they are given to users who are known to the dealers involved.

“He was a drug user of cocaine. He is a man who has been in a fierce grip of addictive drugs for most of his life.”

Samantha Marsh, mitigating for Arnold, said: “He is a gentleman that is not well and is going to have significant medical problems for the rest of his life.

“He is in a different situation from that of last year, he has now reconciled with his wife and his cocaine addiction is under control.

“He does not agree with the findings of the court but he now accepts that he has been convicted and will be sentenced accordingly.”

Judge Peter Murphy said that while he accepted that they had both been addicts and part of the motivation was to fund their habits, he believed that the conspiracy went well beyond that desire.

He added: “These were serious conspiracies that involved large quantities of drugs and large quantities of money.

“I do not accept the contention that Mr Arnold’s role was entirely limited to making the house available.

“The reason that the law takes such a serious view of Class A drugs is that they are so destructive and addictive.

“They destroy lives and they tear families apart as you know all too well.”

He told Taylor that she would not receive a custodial sentence and would instead be given a suspended sentence after a pre-sentence report has been prepared.

He said: “You pleaded guilty during the first trial and offered to give evidence and did give evidence on behalf of the prosecution. I am aware of the dangers this has posed to you and the anxiety you no doubt feel about that.

“You have done what you can to address the balance to assist the prosecution and I think that your evidence played an important part in the trial.”