Criminals who conspired to peddle cocaine and heroin across Gateshead have been jailed after an undercover operation.

A police officer posing as a drug user was sent onto the streets of Felling in 2018 over fears that the area was being hit hard by drug crime.

The operation revealed a "determined" Class A drug conspiracy which its leader kept running from behind bars after he was arrested.

Read more: Drugs gang jailed after flooding Gateshead streets with heroin and cocaine

Newcastle Crown Court heard this week how the gang, headed up by Oliver Howlett, raked in £2,600 a day selling cocaine and heroin, using three phones, some of which contacted over 100 numbers each day, sometimes advertising 'special offers' on the dangerous drugs.

Key figures in the gang were among the six sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court on Thursday, while four lower-level dealers and drivers received their prison sentences on Friday.

Handing out lengthy jail sentences to all those involved, Judge Edward Bindloss said the conspiracy was "of some scale and frequency and of significant duration". It had "regular customers" and involved the use of a number of different vehicles, and operated as an "organised business", he said.

(L-R) Top: Bryan Sewell, Paul McKenna; bottom: Kenneth James, Dylan Angus

The judge added: "The effects of Class A drug addiction on the local community and the harm that it causes is seen in these courts on a daily basis and known only too well.

"The drug deaths, the drug illnesses and debts incurred, the relationships destroyed and the dishonesty offences of burglary, theft and robbery for addicts to be able to fund their purchases from conspirators such as you.

"The undercover officer was, in fact, deployed in 2018 because there was a particular problem in that area."

These are the sentences handed out to each of the gang members.

  • Oliver Howlett, 31, of Easedale Gardens, Low Fell, who was in charge of the conspiracy, was jailed for 11 years and seven months.

  • Howlett's girlfriend Paige Bullock, 23, of Oakwood, Leam Lane, was jailed for eight years and one month.

  • Her father Paul Bullock, 46, of Broomlaw, in Gateshead, was jailed for eight years and one month.

  • Howlett's "lieutenant" Gordon Hunter, 37, of Bondene Avenue West, Gateshead, was jailed for nine years.

  • Driver and dealer Steven Douglas, 33, of Mulberry Gardens, Felling, was jailed for seven years and two months.

  • Wayne Thompson, 34, of Easington Avenue, in Wrekenton, who has since been jailed for 15 years for rape, was jailed for five years, however it will be reconsidered on August 23 when other gang members are sentenced.

  • Dealer Bryan Sewell, 26, of Howe Street, Gateshead, was jailed for six years and five months.

  • Dealer and driver Paul McKenna, 36, of Elizabeth Avenue, Birtley, was jailed for four years and nine months.

  • Driver Kenneth James, 38, of Sherburn Terrace, Gateshead, was jailed for three years and two months.

  • Driver Dylan Angus, 25, of Wardle Gardens, Felling, was jailed for three years and two months.

Three people are still to be sentenced for their part in the conspiracy.

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