Couple facing drugs charges

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A man and woman police believe share a Lisburn address were in court on Tuesday charged with having half a kilo of class A cocaine, reportedly worth £30,000.

However, a detective constable told Craigavon Magistrates Court that three kilos of a cutting agent were uncovered in follow-up searches so, if mixed, the seizure had a potential street value in excess of £200,000.

In the dock were Lee Lavelle (36) and Claire Poots (25), who confirmed they understood the two charges against them, while DC Butler told the court he believed he could connect them to the offences.

Unemployed Lavelle, whose address was given as Brooke Drive in Belfast and hairdresser Poots, reportedly from Fairhaven Park in Lisburn, are jointly charged with possessing class A cocaine and possessing the drugs with intent to supply on January 4.

DC Butler described how, “as a result of a proactive, intelligence-led operation,” officers stopped a Peugeot people-carrier driven by Lavelle on the Hillsborough Road, close to the A1 flyover, at 7pm on Monday evening.

The detective said that under the middle row of seats, police uncovered a brown paper bag containing a sealed plastic bag which had a white substance in it.

Of the result of a field test by a drugs expert officer, he added: “The quick reaction to the test and the way it was compressed suggest that it is a fairly high purity and more than likely was to be cut on arrival.”

Lavelle and Poots were arrested and questioned and while they claimed to live with their parents at Brooke Park and Fairhaven Drive respectively, their parents told officers they only stayed “infrequently.”

DC Butler said it was the police view they lived together at an address on Dromara Drive in Lisburn, where searches uncovered utility bills in their names along with Lavelle’s passport.

Also found at that address was £1,700 in cash as well as scales and DC Butler told the court a search of Poots’ hairdressing salon at Ballymacash Road uncovered three kilos of the commonly used cutting agent benzocaine.

He told the court police were objecting to bail amid fears the two would reoffend in order to recoup the loss the seizure represented, given that, he said: “The drugs we seized would have a wholesale value in the tens of thousands so they’re going to be in debt to either a supplier or people they were supplying to.”

Under cross examination by Poots’ defence barrister Aaron Thompson, DC Butler agreed Poots had claimed the couple had “gone for a drive” down to Carlingford and had stopped at a filling station but she had remained in the car at all times and knew nothing about the cocaine.He also agreed Poots further claimed she knew nothing about the benzocaine and that Lavelle had a key to her salon.

Refusing to release Lavelle, District Judge Bernie Kelly said he had “demonstrated an incapacity to adhere to bail conditions” so she remanded him in custody to appear again on Monday in Lisburn court, via videolink.

Turning to Poots, Judge Kelly told the hairdresser she was “either the most stupid girl I have ever come across, and I mean that, or you are in this to the straps.”

Releasing Poots on her own bail of £750 along with a cash surety of £1,000, the judge warned her she was “in a very, very dangerous place”.