A judge has condemned the actions of drug dealers who have blighted the lives of residents in Blyth.
A five-month police operation last year uncovered a total of 11 people selling heroin, sometimes just yards from a children’s centre, in the town.
Last Thursday, five were given immediate jail sentences at Newcastle Crown Court while a further five were handed suspended sentences.
In the past Blyth has been blighted with a reputation for having a drugs problem, leading Judge John Evans to express his sympathy for residents and saying this reputation was probably why the police began the operation.
Sentencing the 11 at court, Judge Evans said: “This case all too unhappily demonstrates that the problem which has afflicted Blyth for many years continues to do so.
“I’ve no doubt the many, many good people that reside in Blyth had been hoping that perhaps the problem of drug misuse in their area was subsiding.
“Regrettably this case demonstrates that is not the case. I’ve no doubt that is precisely the reason why this (police) operation was set up.
“Police in this case were able to uncover precisely why it is and who it is responsible for bringing so much misery to this part of the north east.”
But he added that while police had uncovered a number of street dealers, the wholesalers who are bringing the large quantity of drugs into the town remained anonymous.
Speaking to the defendants, he said: “I dare say the people in Blyth will not shed any tears for any of you, not withstanding that you might not be the source of the drugs in this case,.
“You have it in your power to reveal the identities of these people but you choose not to do so.”
He added: “Each of you in one way or another seem to be unable to recognise that not only do you cause huge damage to yourselves by abusing drugs in the way you do but more importantly you bring misery to the many others you exploited for your own ends for limited profit.
“One of the more disturbing aspects of this case is the place where some dealing took place.
“Some of you have children of your own. You present as a very poor example to them.”
Police chiefs also welcomed the sentences, and the support they received from local residents.
Chief Superintendent Gordon Milward, Northumberland Area Commander, said: “The action taken was a direct response to concerns raised by local residents and what followed was a thorough investigation into the drug activity of individuals in Blyth.
“We’re pleased with the sentences, which ensure drug dealers are off the streets of Blyth and Northumberland for a substantial period of time.
“We are absolutely committed to tackling the issues raised by residents and I hope the sentences passed demonstrate that action can and will be taken when they tell us what concerns them most.
“We’ve had great support from the public and I’d like to thank them for coming forward with information, which has greatly helped this investigation.
“We are not complacent and we’ll continue to respond to concerns and take proactive action against those involved in crime and disorder in Blyth and anywhere else in Northumberland.”
Northumbria Police & Crime Commissioner Vera Baird added: “The use and supply of illegal drugs can ruin lives and blight our neighbourhoods and I’m committed to ensuring police focus on the people causing the most harm in our communities.
“I welcome the sentences passed which show how police, local residents and partners working together can ensure action can be taken to tackle the use and supply of illegal drugs.
“I hope it will reassure residents that work is being done to tackle the issues that affect them.”