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Coded messages found on mobiles of couple’s drug deals

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MESSAGES recovered from mobile phones showed a couple had been dealing drugs, the Royal Court was told.

Jonathan Welch was jailed for a total of four years and nine months after admitting possessing Ecstasy with intent to supply the class A drug and failing to disclose to police the passcodes for his mobile and laptop.

Jonathan Welch, 28, who at a previous court hearing had given his address as Marisol, 3, Havilland Street, St Peter Port, admitted possessing the class A substance MDMA, commonly known as Ecstasy, with intent to supply.

He also admitted two charges of failing to disclose information required by police within seven days while subject to a notice served under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Law.

He also asked the court to take into consideration six other matters when sentencing including possessing MDMA, cannabis, cannabis resin, and a bladed article, a hand-made knife. He committed some offences while on bail.

Welch and Emily Birtwistle, 19, of Decameron, Clos de Sept, St Sampson’s, admitted together supplying the class B substance cannabis and cannabis resin to another.

Crown advocate Chris Dunford told the court how, at about 9.30pm on 16 April last year, a police officer saw Welch in Havilland Street, walking away from a man to whom it was thought he had supplied drugs.

The other man appeared nervous and, in a later search, confessed to having ‘a gram in his pants’.

When officers went to Welch’s home the following day to arrest him, Birtwistle was getting out of the shower.

Cannabis with a total weight of 48.38 grams was recovered, along with four MDMA tablets weighing a total of 1.15 grams.

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The cannabis had a local street value of between £967 and £1,451 while the tablets were worth £100 to £112.

Mobile phones belonging to each, digital scales and a laptop were seized.

Both defendants gave no-comment responses to questions in interviews.

Advocate Dunford said the prosecution case was mainly based on information recovered from the phones.

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It was difficult to say the quantity of the drugs that had been sold, but the messages gave a snapshot of that.

Welch had refused to give police the passcodes for his phone or the laptop, hence the two charges of failing to disclose, but investigators were able to bypass them.

Messages on his phone using code words showed Welch had been offering or arranging to sell the drugs and had been contacted by people trying to source them.

Words common to the drug fraternity such as beans, smoke and purple bloomers had been used.

Birtwistle had helped him in the cannabis enterprise only by selling, arranging deals, and keeping a note of who owed money.

Reference on her phone was made to a ‘97 Merc bar’. Advocate Dunford said this would have been a 100 gram Mercedes bar which someone intended to sell but which had been under weight.

For Welch, Advocate Liam Roffey asked the court to take into account the fact that there had been nine months between charge and committal, which had had a significant impact on his client’s mental health.

He had had an extremely difficult upbringing during which he had been subjected to violence and he turned to drugs aged 17 with experimentation with what were then called legal highs.

He had a £15 per day cannabis habit and as he had access to only £100 per week had turned to selling drugs to fund it.

The reports showed there had been a shift in his thinking when it came to his future and he was keen to come off drugs. This was his first court appearance for a drug offence.

For Birtwistle, Advocate Samuel Steel said his client had been victim of a serious offence as a teenager and she became attracted to the lure of substances to block out her emotional pain.

She was not the main protagonist in terms of the supply charge and had wanted to be a good girlfriend at the time.

She realised now that this was not the life she wanted to live and had found her voice. She had severed ties with those who bound her to that lifestyle.

Her only previous offences were traffic matters.

The Bailiff, Richard McMahon, said while the court recognised that both defendants had had problems in the past, that was not an excuse for what they had done.

Without willing dealers the supply chain would dry up and misery would be reduced.

The court accepted that Birtwistle had played a lesser role but these were still organised and well-documented crimes.

Sentences

Welch was sentenced to four years in prison for the MDMA offence with two years, concurrent, for the cannabis charges.

The failure to disclose matters attracted sentences of nine months each, concurrent with each other but consecutive to the others, making a total of four years and nine months.

Birtwistle was sentenced to 18 months’ youth detention suspended for two years. A suspended sentence supervision order will run for the 18 months.

Forfeiture and destruction of the drugs, the digital scales and the mobile phones was ordered.

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