Belfast Telegraph

UDA drug-dealing cocaine addict jailed as detective slams paramilitary gangs

By Ashleigh McDonald

Police have welcomed the jailing of a UDA drug dealer.

Gary Coleman was yesterday handed a two-year sentence after he admitted a charge of possessing a class A drug with intent to supply on December 14, 2017.

The 25-year-old supplied cocaine to friends in a bid to fund his own addiction.

He was starting a 12-month stint behind bars yesterday. Judge Kevin Finnegan told Coleman, from The Green in Holywood, he will also spend a year on licence after release.

Belfast Crown Court heard that Coleman was arrested after cocaine was found in a bin at the rear of a house at Hopewell Crescent in the city.

The property was searched in December 2017, and at that time it was occupied by Coleman.

The cocaine was in 19 separate bags and when Coleman's phone was seized and examined, text messages were found that suggested the supply of drugs.

When arrested and interviewed, Coleman told police he had bought the cocaine for £250, that it was for over the Christmas period and that he had supplied it to a small number of friends.

Defence barrister Sean Mullan told the court his client had supplied drugs to his friends in a bid to fund his own addiction, and revealed Coleman's habit was so severe that he had been taking up to three grams a day.

Mr Mullan also said his client was far from a top-level drug dealer and had since taken steps to begin to address his addiction issues.

After handing Coleman the sentence, Judge Finnegan told the Co Down man to comply with probation during his time on licence before telling prison staff to "take him below".

Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton from the PSNI's Paramilitary Crime Taskforce said that the cocaine, which had an estimated street value of £1,200, was discovered as part of an investigation linked to the west Belfast UDA.

Welcoming Coleman's conviction, he said: "The UDA, like all paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, claim to be protecting their communities from crime.

"The reality is that they are heavily involved in a wide range of criminal money-making operations, including taking a cut from alleged local drug dealers and supplying controlled drugs themselves.

"This is solely for their own personal gain - making profit at the expense of causing harm and loss to local families.

"Paramilitary groups and those who deal drugs only serve to blight the communities they operate in. These people do not care about the damage that they cause, preying on the most vulnerable members of their communities and trying to control them by using fear and violence.

"We are committed to bringing those involved in the criminality associated with paramilitarism before the courts and will continue to aggressively and proactively pursue those who are intent on damaging our communities by supplying illegal drugs.

"The communities most damaged by the sale of illegal drugs support our ongoing efforts and I would appeal for anyone with information regarding criminality by paramilitary organisations to contact police on 101.

"Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime."

Belfast Telegraph

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