Belfast Telegraph

Police aware drug dealer earning over £1m a year in Northern Ireland, claims PUP councillor

Police strongly rejected Russell Watton's claims, saying officers were at the "forefront" of tackling drug dealers

PUP councillor Russell Watton
PUP councillor Russell Watton
A PUP councillor in Coleraine has said local drug dealers are earning over £1m per year.
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

A Coleraine PUP councillor has said that police in his area are aware of a drug dealer earning more than £1m per year.

Russell Watton made the claim on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show on Wednesday morning.

Police strongly rejected the claims saying that police in the Causeway Coast and Glens area had been working to combat drug crime.

Causeway Coast and Glens councillor Watton was part of a discussion on dealing with drug dealers in loyalist areas.

It came after PUP councillor Dr John Kyle accused loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson of "brushing over the problem of paramilitary drug dealers".

Mr Bryson told the Nolan Show that he had concerns around passing information to police and "would never be an informer".

Councillor Watton claimed that police know the identities of the drug dealers in the Coleraine area and how much money they were earning.

He also alleged that drug dealers could be benefiting by working as police informers.

"My head is turned in Coleraine with these drug dealers, some of them (are) running 10, 20 years, the greatest lifestyle you've ever saw in your life," Councillor Watton said.

"How many of them are informing for the police? How many of them are police informers? That is to be answered."

Coleraine PUP councillor Russell Watton
Coleraine PUP councillor Russell Watton

The PUP councillor said he had questioned police on the earnings of the dealers and they did not deny the estimated figures.

"We've one in my area turning £100k a month, £1.2m a year. They've confirmed it to me (police)," he said.

"They're not denying that drug dealers, the money they're making. I'm saying 'why can't you get stuck into them and put them behind bars'."

Councillor Watton claimed that one senior police officer told him he "wouldn't be far of the mark" estimating what one specific drug dealer was earning.

Superintendent Jeremy Lindsay said that police in the Coleraine area were "at the forefront" of tackling the sale and supply of illegal drugs.

"This is shown by the fact that four of the nineteen cannabis farms discovered and dismantled across Northern Ireland last year were dealt with by officers in Causeway Coast and Glens District," he said.

Jamie Bryson
Jamie Bryson

"We are continuing to remove more drugs from our streets, reducing the harm to our communities and bringing those responsible before the courts.

“I would ask anyone with information about the use or supply of illegal drugs to bring that information to police.”

Dr Kyle said part of the issues the loyalist community face are because of "criminals, drug dealers, crime gangs" that exploit the communities and "damage and destroy them".

The long-serving PUP councillor said that unless loyalism faced up to those issues it would always have "a reputational problem".

Mr Bryson said that any crime, regardless of where it comes from should be pursued by police.

He said "for the avoidance of doubt" that "anyone from the UVF, the UDA or the INLA or anybody else" should be dealt with by the PSNI if they are involved in crime.

PUP councillor Dr John Kyle
PUP councillor Dr John Kyle

Asked by host Stephen Nolan if he knew of anyone in the UVF involved in drugs Mr Bryson said "I don't have evidence of anyone involved in drug dealing".

"If you had evidence of drug dealing in a loyalist community would you bring it to the police," Mr Nolan asked.

"Would I start running to the PSNI as some kind of informer? No," Mr Bryson replied.

"In the years that I've been working as a community development officer I've worked with the PSNI to take drugs off the street."

Mr Bryson said that if he saw someone selling heroin to a child on the street he would report it, but that Mr Nolan suggested he would take third hand "tittle tattle" information to police and he would "never be an informer".

Dr Kyle said that if he had any first hand information he would feel that it was "his responsibility to pass it on to the police".

"If I saw something, if I witnessed something, if something was done to me I would certainly pass it on to police because we need to work with police," he said.

He said he would work and co-operate with police as much as he was able to, but acknowledged that anyone who informs could be putting themselves at risk.

Dr Kyle said there was a similar situation in Dublin and the UK and that was just a "fact of life".

"These criminals are parasites, they are destroying our communities and we need to work with police to deal with them," he said.

Councillor Watton said he would have no hesitation in reporting any drug activity to the police.

"If I know anybody that's dealing drugs, I don't care who they are or what they are, there's no such thing in my eyes as a loyalist drug dealer, a drug dealer is a drug dealer is a drug dealer. If they're at it, I'll be reporting them.," he said.

"If somebody comes into my estate and starts dealing drugs they'll not last a fortnight.

"They'll be put out by paramilitaries, I'd rather the police did it, but I'll tell you something it's done with the tacit approval of the community."

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