Two Wearside cocaine conspirators have been jailed for supplying drugs and ordered to pay back hundreds of thousands of their ill-gotten gains.
Kenneth Hunter and his associate William Trott were convicted in 2019 after a long-running investigation identified them as central figures in a plot to supply cocaine and amphetamine.
Investigations into their finances, which were culminated in two hearings, discovered that the pair had significantly benefitted from criminal activity.
The double act have since been ordered to pay back more than £300,000.
Trott, formerly of Hedworth Terrace, appeared at Newcastle Crown Court on 11 February, with Hunter, formerly of St Paul’s Drive in Houghton, appearing on 25 February.
Following the hearings, Detective Sergeant Amber Renton from Northumbria Police’s Crime department said: “As part of our commitment to tackling serious and organised crime as part of Operation Sentinel, we will continue to pursue offenders after they’ve been convicted to make sure they are stripped of any ill-gotten gains under the Proceeds of Crime Act.”
A judge issued Trott a benefit order totalling £77,940 with £3,470 set as the available amount.
Hunter was issued with a benefit order of £241,653 with £24,800 set as the available amount.
Officers from Northumbria Police uncovered the pair’s illicit empire when disqualified driver Trott was caught behind the wheel of a car in Shiney Row.
A search of his home followed the arrest and led detectives to two kilos of cocaine and 12 kilos of amphetamine.
His associate Hunter was later arrested and during a search of his home, officers found a receipt for a speedboat which was quickly tracked down and seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act, along with several other vehicles.
The pair later appeared at Newcastle Crown Court where they pleaded guilty and in May 2020, they were jailed for a combined total of 14 years and an investigation into their finances was subsequently launched.
The rulings mean that Trott must pay the available amount immediately and Hunter within three months – and whenever they come into money in the future, their benefit orders will be revisited until the amounts are paid in full.
Detective Sergeant Renton added: “This result sends a strong and clear message to those involved in drug supply – crime does not pay. I hope this shows our hardworking communities that those breaking the law and living in big houses, driving expensive cars or funnelling cash made in illicit ways will not get away with it.
“I would like to thank our team of financial investigators, whose detailed and thorough work ensures those committing crimes do not continue to benefit from their illicit activity. I also want to take this opportunity to ask the public to work with us – and report anything suspicious to us.”
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Michael Gove proposes House of Lords sit in Sunderland during Parliament refurbishment
Sunderland has been suggested as one of several locations for the House of Lords to relocate to while Parliament undergoes refurbishment.
York had been previously been proposed but the Government vetoed the plans.
Michael Gove, who is Levelling Up Secretary, is said to have written to Lord McFall of Alcluith suggesting locations including Stoke-on-Trent, Burnley and Sunderland.
In the letter, Mr Gove said he knows “cities and towns across the United Kingdom would be pleased to extend their hospitality to peers”.
He is quoted as saying that having “carefully reviewed the proposed arrangements”, he “will not support the use of the QEII Centre as an alternative location”.
The Queen Elizabeth II Centre conference and exhibition space is just a few minutes’ walk from the Palace of Westminster in London.
In the letter, which the Sunday Times said was also sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, Mr Gove suggested a move elsewhere in England, Scotland or Wales.
He is reported to have written: “As the minister responsible for levelling up, it is clear to me that the House of Lords moving elsewhere, even for a temporary period, would be widely welcomed.
“I have carefully reviewed the proposed arrangements and…I will not support the use of the QEII Centre as an alternative location.
“I propose to establish dedicated liaison points for you in my department to support you in identifying a suitable location for the House of Lords in the North, Midlands, South West, Scotland or Wales. I would, of course, be happy to meet you to discuss this.”
Tyne Bridge to Close for Several Weeks for £41m Restoration
Several weeks of overnight closures are planned in order to allow engineers to assess how bad a state the Tyne Bridge is in, before it can be restored to its former glory.
The long-overdue restoration is estimated to cost £41m in order to restore the bridge and refurbish the Central Motorway.
According to a local authority report, the inspection is expected to require the famous crossing to be closed from 10pm to 6am from June 13 to July 1. A number of roads underneath the bridge on the Newcastle Quayside are also due to be affected by the works – with closures due between May 16 and June 10 on Quayside, Lombard Street, Queen Street, and Akenside Hill from 8pm to 6am.
A Newcastle City Council spokesperson said: “We submitted a bid for £41.4 million to Government which, if approved, will enable a four-year maintenance programme for the Tyne Bridge and the Central Motorway to go ahead. As part of the funding process, we are required to carry out some initial works on the Tyne Bridge.
“This includes a full inspection of the bridge, so we can assess its condition and the scale of works required to finalise the costings and project plans to fully restore and refurbish this major structure. This needs to be completed ahead of funding being approved.
“As we need to inspect the entire span of the bridge, overnight closures may be required on the bridge and roads underneath it, so engineers can complete this work safely. Details on the programming are being finalised.”
The Tyne Bridge has not had any major maintenance for two decades and its much-needed refurbishment has been at the top of council officials’ to do list for years, in the hope of ensuring it is looking its best once again by its 100th birthday in 2028. However, it has been warned that the grade II* listed structure may have deteriorated into a worse condition than currently known and council bosses have warned that, like on other major projects like the Grainger Market’s roof repairs, the refurbishment may take longer than expected.”
Seaburn and Roker Beaches Named Best Beaches in the Country in 2022
Sunderland’s beaches have been named among the best in the country for the 11th year running.
Seaburn and Roker were both named as winners of the Seaside Award by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy. The pair were once again handed Blue Flags, marking them out for their for their excellent water quality, cleanliness and attempts to constantly improve visitor amenities.
The Blue Flag awards, now in their 35th year, are issued by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy and act as ‘a quality mark so visitors can be sure the beaches boast top-notch facilities and meet the highest environmental standards’.
Linda Williams, Sunderland City Council’s cabinet member for Vibrant City, said: “It is fantastic to see Sunderland’s beautiful beaches once again awarded the prestigious Blue Flag and Seaside Award.
“Flying these flags at Roker and Seaburn shows everyone who visits that our seafront has excellent quality bathing water and first-class facilities.
“We’re very lucky to have fantastic beaches with beautiful, clean water to swim and bathe in, and this national recognition is testament to the hard work of everyone involved in keeping our beaches clean, tidy and well-maintained.”
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