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You're either totally stupid or up in this to the straps, judge tells cocaine accused woman

By Paul Higgins

Published 07/01/2016

Claire Poots (25) was arrested with 36-year-old Lee Lavelle in a car containing £30,000 of the class A drug
Claire Poots (25) was arrested with 36-year-old Lee Lavelle in a car containing £30,000 of the class A drug

A judge has told a hairdresser accused of possessing a bag of cocaine she is "either the most stupid girl I have ever come across, or you are in this to the straps".

Claire Poots (25) was arrested with 36-year-old Lee Lavelle in a car containing £30,000 of the class A drug.

A detective constable told Craigavon Magistrates Court three kilos of benzocaine were found in a follow-up search of Poots' salon on Ballymacash Road. If mixed with cocaine, the value could rise to a potential £200,000.

Unemployed Lavelle, from Brooke Drive in Belfast, and Poots, from Fairhaven Park, Lisburn, are jointly charged with possessing class A drugs with intent to supply over the incident on January 4.

After the pair were arrested and questioned they claimed to live with their respective parents. However, the detective said it was the police view that they lived together at an address on Dromara Drive in Lisburn as searches there uncovered utility bills in their names along with Lavelle's passport. Also found at that address were scales and £1,700 in cash.

While Lavelle refused to answer questions in four interviews, Poots was described as being "evasive" in her answers, although the detective said she maintained she knew nothing about the cocaine package or cutting agent.

He told the court police were objecting to bail amid fears the pair would reoffend in order to recoup the loss the seizure represented as "the drugs we seized would have a wholesale value in the tens of thousands, so they're going to be in debt to a supplier or people they were supplying to".

Lavelle's defence solicitor Fergal McElhatton said that with no direct evidence linking Lavelle to the cocaine, given the fact that it was found in a taxi after the busy festive period, the package could have been left there by a customer. But he conceded that his "big problem" was that Lavelle was in breach of previous bail conditions.

Refusing to release Lavelle, District Judge Bernie Kelly said he had "demonstrated an incapacity to adhere to bail conditions" so she was remanding him into custody to appear in court again on Monday via video-link.

Turning to Poots, Judge Kelly said she was "either the most stupid girl I have ever come across, 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" as there were people who "have a vested interest" in the drugs the police seized.

As part of her bail conditions Judge Kelly barred Poots from using or having a mobile phone, iPad or computer, banned her from using any social media to contact Lavelle, and ordered her to live with her father and observe a curfew.

She also warned Poots in no uncertain terms that any breach of any condition would result in her father losing his surety and that she would "be back in prison again, and you won't get out again".

Belfast Telegraph

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