Courier was caught returning to region with drug consignment

A JAILED drug courier failed to declare a bank account containing £50,000 to a proceeds of crime financial investigator, a court was told.

John Collard was given a three-year prison sentence at Durham Crown Court in February, following the recovery of class A drugs from his car and home, in January, last year.

Police pulled him over, on the A1(M) near Chester-le-Street, as he was driving back to the North-East.

Officers carried out a search of the vehicle and uncovered a large quantity of cocaine.

They then carried out a search of his home in Blaydon-on-Tyne, Gateshead, from where they recovered a significant amount of heroin.

The 53-year-old defendant was charged with two counts of possession with intent to supply class A drugs, which he admitted.

Following the sentencing hearing investigating officer Graeme Whitfield, of Durham Police’s West CID team, said: “Collard clearly believed that he could act with impunity in supplying class A drugs in the Durham Constabulary area.

“This sentence serves as a reminder to anyone making what they consider to be fast money that we will not accept offending of this nature, and we will continue to target drug dealing within the community and put these criminals before the courts.”

An inquiry then began under the Proceeds of Crime Act to discover what assets and savings were in Collard’s possession, prior to a potential confiscation hearing.

Appearing at a crime proceeds hearing back at the court, Martin Towers, for the Crown, asked for further time to conduct inquiries into the defendant’s means following, “a surprise development”.

He said the financial investigator has just learned of a bank account, not declared by Collard, containing deposits made in the two years before his arrest, amounting to £50,000.

“I’m instructed to ask for a further four weeks for the prosecution’s response in case there are any further surprises in this case,” added Mr Towers.

Judge Ray Singh asked Collard’s counsel, Steven Reed, how it could be that his client failed to disclose a bank account containing £50,000.

Mr Reed replied: “It appears there’s been a genuine mistake on his behalf.

“He wasn’t aware of £50,000 going into an account.

“The figure is contested. It’s an account he’s kept for ten years and the money going into that account is money from his employment, and that’s his position.”

Judge Singh agreed to further adjourn the crime proceeds hearing, telling Collard: “The reason there has been a delay is that you failed to disclose a fairly significant bank account into which a fairly significant sum of money has passed.

“If a judge comes to the conclusion that you are being untruthful it may be detrimental to your case.

“It may be that it was a genuine mistake, but someone may come to the conclusion you have deliberately tried to avoid knowledge of that account coming to light.”

He adjourned proceedings until November 6.

The Northern Echo | Durham