GANG HID DRUGS IN CHURCHYARD - COURT

A drug addict who sold heroin and crack cocaine to fund his own addiction has been jailed for three years.

Damian Pickard, of Dale Lane, Heckmondwike, was part of a five-strong gang who used a churchyard to stash almost 5,000 of illegal drugs.

They hid them in brambles at St Mary's Church in Mirfield before delivering them to addicts across the town.

But their hideaway was discovered by police and the gang arrested.

Pickard was jailed at Leeds Crown Court on Monday after pleading guilty to conspiring to sell class A drugs between July and December last year and affray.

Two other gang members were sent to jail on Friday and two were handed community punishments.

Judge Stephen Ashurst said: "There was a time, not long ago, when trading in class A drugs was confined to a few notorious areas.

"But the drugs scene has become a feature of small towns."

He spared Pickard a longer sentence because his family had helped him kick his seven-year addiction.

His father Kevin made it a house rule over the last 12 months that he must keep clean to remain living in the family home.

He bought drug-testing kits and demanded a urine sample every few weeks.

Justin Crossley, in mitigation, said: "Pickard was a foot soldier. He did not financially benefit from the supply of heroin and crack cocaine. He was dealing to fund his own habit."

He said Pickard had made numerous attempts to rid himself of drugs and successfully quit heroin by having a stomach implant, which induces heavy sickness when opiates are taken. But he later started taking crack cocaine which was not affected by the implant.

Other attempts to kick the habit included two six-month spells working for a charity in Spain – but within months of his return he went back to using.

Kevin Pickard told the court: "It has been a nightmare for the whole family. Unless you've lived with a heroin addict for seven years you have no idea. It's torture.

"Since Damian came back home after his arrest, he has been clean. Having lived with him it is obvious that he is clean, but I still do random drug testing with the kits I bought.

"I am convinced he will stay clean now. He even has a new relationship."

More...Judge Ashurst said he had never before come across a family so committed to getting their son away from drugs.

He told Pickard: "I find your case difficult because I have extreme sympathy for the position your family find themselves in.

"They have had their lives turned upside down but continue to support you. I've not come across parents who are so committed to their son, using home kits to test for drugs. Their actions are highly commendable."

Although Pickard has been clean for the past year and has turned his life around, Judge Ashurst said he had to pass a custodial sentence.

The court was told that Michael Pype, 26, formerly of Overthorpe Road, Thornhill, and Pickard, 24, were at the centre of a scheme to supply the drugs in Mirfield and operated a "mobile delivery service" to known addicts.

Pype was jailed for five-and-a-half years after he also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine and further offences of affray and unlawful wounding.

Three other gang members also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine.

Joel Bryce, 20, of Rawthorpe Lane, Dalton, Huddersfield, described as the link between the group and drug dealers in Huddersfield, was given a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence.

In mitigation it was said Bryce had been guilty of distorted thinking and expressed regret and sorrow for his actions.

Haley Ward, 20, of Norman Drive, Mirfield, was handed a combined sentence of 100 hours' community work tagged to a two-year rehabilitation order.

In mitigation the court heard that Pickard had given her cash in exchange for use of her kitchen to prepare the drugs.

He said: "She only appeared on the very periphery of the plot and was not involved in any way in the handling or selling of drugs."

A teenage girl – who cannot be named for legal reasons – was given a two-year supervision order after the court heard she was under the influence of one of the gang and played only a "secondary role" in the plot.