Cocaine accused replaced jailed brother as head of UDA gang, court is told
A Belfast man stepped into a leadership role in a UDA-linked crime gang after his brother was arrested, a court has heard.
Gary Coleman of Hopewell Crescent in the Shankill area appeared in court on Saturday accused of having cocaine with intent to supply on December 14.
His brother Dee Coleman was remanded in custody in October charged with UDA membership.
Saturday's court sitting heard that police uncovered 19 separate one gram bags of cocaine in a bin at Gary Coleman's address, described by his defence solicitor as "an address that has been searched continually".
A detective revealed the PSNI had been "investigating this crime gang for over a year" and claimed Gary Coleman was a member of the gang.
The officer further claimed that "Dee Coleman had a leadership role in (UDA) 'C Company' and that's been accepted as a prima facie case by the court". He added that since his brother went into custody, "Gary Coleman has stepped up and assumed some sort of leadership role in this organised crime gang".
He also said that when Dee Coleman was arrested in October, Gary Coleman was arrested at the same time and was reported to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) over an allegation he was also a member of the UDA.
The detective told the court that while police believe the gang "are not directly involved in the importation of kilos of cocaine", he said their modus operandi was to "bring relatively small amounts on a regular basis" and claimed Gary Coleman was dealing from his home at Hopewell Crescent.
He outlined that when he was arrested in October, Gary Coleman had £1,000 in cash, and when he met the PSNI voluntarily last Friday, he had £300 in his possession, all of which was seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
"We believe that because of the money that's being made, Gary Coleman will continue as part of this organised crime gang, to continue to deal drugs," said the officer.
He added that despite the year-long police operation resulting in "significant charges and seizures... this has not deterred the crime gang from engaging in drug dealing criminality".
The detective said another ground for objecting to bail was that Gary Coleman could interfere with the investigation as police were looking at what mobile phones he had and what they were used for.
While two SIM cards were uncovered hidden in a "modified baked beans tin" at a different address linked to Gary Coleman, "during interview he refused to provide the location of his phone" so police fear that, if freed, he could dispose of that potential piece of evidence, the court heard.
A defence lawyer suggested, and the officer agreed, that Coleman had given an account for the cash he had and had made admissions over the drugs, claiming he bought them "on strap" for £250 and they were for his own personal use.
The detective told the court, however, that police believe the drugs were worth "over £1,000" and that Gary Coleman's only legitimate income is "through benefits".
While the officer also conceded Hopewell Crescent had been Gary Coleman's registered address with the Housing Executive, he maintained that police believed his brother had lived there prior to his arrest and that Gary only started using it after his brother was remanded.
The lawyer said he "would struggle to find a more searched address in the Shankill", and the detective accepted it probably was, but added that "every time we search it we find something inherently illegal".
He submitted that any order for Gary Coleman to find an address outside the city would be tantamount to a bail refusal, to which the detective argued that if he was allowed to live there, "he will continue uninterrupted the activities that he has been engaged in".
"If he is removed from Belfast that removes him from the whole distribution and supply network and safeguards the citizens of the Shankill community," said the officer.
District Judge Harry McKibbin granted bail, but ordered Coleman to live outside Belfast. He is due back before the court on December 21.