Man jailed for selling drugs during undercover county lines operation

Norwich Crown Court. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Norwich Crown Court. Picture: Jamie Honeywood - Credit: Archant

A drugs runner who sold crack cocaine to an undercover police officer during an operation into county lines dealing in Norwich has been jailed.

Christopher Bates, 35, who was arrested on February 10 as part of a police initiative called Operation Harefield, pleaded guilty to supply of Class A drugs.

He was one of several people charged in connection with drug dealing in Norwich following the joint operation between the Norfolk and Suffolk Serious and Organised Crime Unit, working with officers from the Metropolitan Police.

Appearing at Norwich Crown Court on Wednesday, Bates, who was homeless at the time of his arrest, was jailed for 32 months.

The court heard that he had acted as runner and sold two wraps of crack cocaine for £20 to an undercover officer in Barrack Street after he had phoned a known county lines drug dealing phone.

Sentencing him, Judge Andrew Shaw said: “You are being sentenced for your fairly limited role in Operation Harefield, the latest test purchase operation deployed by Norfolk Constabulary to disrupt the flow of controlled drugs in this county and in particular in Norwich.

“You sold drugs to five other waiting individuals before making the exchange with the test purchase officer.

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“There was no duress or coercion here in my view. You were a willing participant and you must have had some understanding of the scale of the operation.”

Andrew Thompson, mitigating, said: “At the time he became caught up in this operation, as the result of a family break-up that coincided with a relationship break-up, he was on the streets.

“In return for his involvement as a runner at the very lowest end, his reward would have been drugs for free rather than money.”

Operation Harefield led to 17 search warrants at addresses across the city and in the London area between March 16 and April 2

Officers seized a large quantity of heroin and crack cocaine, along with a number of mobile phones, during the operation.