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Gloucestershire Business News

Operator of County Lines drug dealership caught by tracking technology

A man who operated a County Lines drug dealership called 'Cola' in Cheltenham was caught thanks to mobile phone and vehicle number plate recognition technology being used by police to track his movements, a court heard on Thursday (November 18).

Appearing at Gloucester Crown Court on his 29th birthday, Luke Barnard, of Wellingborough Road, Northampton, pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of heroin and cocaine in Cheltenham between August 20 and September 13 2021.

He also admitted possession of a knife which was found concealed in the steering column of the Peugeot car he was using when he was stopped by police on September 13.

Judge Ian Lawrie QC jailed him for a total of three years and ordered that £1,060 cash found in the car be confiscated for use by Gloucestershire police in crime fighting.

Prosecutor Andrew Stone said "The 'burner' phone being used for the county line operation was linked to a Peugeot car. Both cell sites and Automatic Number Plate Recognition confirmed that the car and the phone were making multiple trips from London to Northampton and then from Northampton to Cheltenham.

"The defendant lived in Northampton and although the car was not registered to him he was a named driver on the insurance.

"At 5pm on 13th September the police approached the car in Cheltenham and detained Barnard, who was the sole occupant.

"He had two mobile phones on him at the time, one of them being the county line number. A wrap of cocaine and two wraps of heroin were in the back of the car and there was also a roll of bank notes, totalling £1,060.

"A knife was found concealed in the steering column. His DNA was later found on it."

Edward Burgess, defending, said "His partner has taken a very dim view of his involvement in this and has read him the riot act.

"Today just happens to be his 29th birthday - he realises that he is approaching 30 and that he needs to change. He had expressed his determination to use this opportunity to get the help he needs to change his ways."

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