Four men walk free over seizure of benzocaine
Four men including a wheelchair-bound pensioner who resides in a Belfast fold have narrowly escaped being sent to prison after appearing in court on charges arising from a police surveillance operation.
The four - Stephen Christopher Pettigrew (33), from Barnfield Grange in Lisburn; 66-year old James Thompson, from St Paul's Fold in Belfast; Ross Thompson (32), from Arosa Parade in Belfast, and 30-year old Ryan Welshman, from Oakmount Drive in Belfast - each admitted a charge of encouraging or assisting an offence believing one or more would be carried out.
Each of the four defendants was handed a two-year prison sentence, which was suspended for two years.
Belfast Crown Court heard the charge arose from the seizure of 50kgs of benzocaine.
While the substance itself is not illegal, it is commonly used as a 'bulking agent' and is frequently mixed with the cocaine. The case was opened last week, and sentence was passed by Judge Stephen Fowler QC yesterday.