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Dealers jailed for selling drugs at beauty spot picnic area

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: April 08, 2013

A pair of drug dealers have been jailed for selling heroin and cocaine at a picnic area on the Tarka Trail.

Richard Longa and Ricky Dutton were caught when police were alerted by walkers using a path between Torrington and Bideford to the suspicious activities of the two men.

They mounted a pincer operation, in which officers trapped the two men by approaching from both directions at once. Longa fled into undergrowth when he saw them.

A tracker dog was brought in to flush him out and a specialist drugs dog was deployed to find the packets of drugs which he and Dutton had hidden under moss near the memorial to a crashed Second World War bomber.

They were jailed for a total of five and a half years as a judge said the people of the Westcountry would not tolerate dealers coming into the region to sell class A drugs.

Congolese refugee Longa, 21, of Sycamore Road, Reading, denied possession of heroin and cocaine with intent to supply but was found guilty at a trial in January. Dutton, 20, of Blagdon Road, Reading, admitted the same offences.

Longa was jailed for three years and Dutton for two-and-a-half by Judge John Neligan at Exeter Crown Court.

He told them: "You came from the Reading area armed with a quantity of heroin and cocaine which you intended to supply to the inhabitants of North Devon.

"It is the role of the courts to ensure that people who come to the Westcountry to supply class A drugs are hit pretty hard by way of sentence.

"This was a pretty half-baked operation, but it is something which the people of this area are keen to stamp out. There must be prison sentences because you both played a significant role."

Nigel Wraith, prosecuting, said police were called to the Tarka Trail in May 2010 and trapped the men by moving in from both sides at once.

Longa was arrested at the scene and ten wraps of heroin recovered from where he hid them as he fled.

Dutton was not arrested until later, when it became clear he had dumped ten wraps of cocaine.

A total of £576 worth of drugs and £540 cash were seized in the two operations.

Longa's trial was told he denied dealing in drugs and said he had gone to the Tarka Trail to smoke cannabis and chill out. He is a refugee who has since spent 17 months in an immigration detention centre.

Terry McGuinness, defending, said Dutton had learned from his mistake and wanted to start a new life as a builder.

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