COCAINE suspected to be worth more than £50,000 was allegedly tossed from a car as a driver tried to make off from police despite tyres being punctured by a ‘stinger’ device, Ballymena Magistrates Court heard on Thursday.
Vincent Birt (66), with an address at Antrim Road in Ballymena, is accused of offences including possessing cocaine and cannabis with intent to supply; dangerous driving; failing to stop for police; obstructing police; possession of cocaine and cannabis and possessing criminal property.
The defendant appeared at Ballymena Magistrates Court which heard police found cocaine during a “rummage” search along a road near Ballymena where a vehicle had driven at 7pm on Tuesday of this week.
Cannabis worth at least £7,000 was then recovered in a follow-up search of a property along with £20,000 in cash.
Opposing bail a police officer said police at Moorfields Road signalled for a Volkswagen Passat to stop and initially the driver, the defendant, pulled into the hard shoulder and stopped.
The policeman said: “When he was informed he was going to be searched he accelerated off with police in close proximity to the vehicle. Police nearby were able to pull out a ‘stinger’ device which punctured a tyre”.
The court heard the vehicle then turned into the Tully Road and as the tyres deflated it stopped around a mile away at the Lisnahilt Road.
The officer said two mobile phones were seized in the car and a “rummage search” of the route taken by the vehicle led to the discovery of half a kilo of white powder, suspected to be cocaine, on the Tully Road.
The drugs were inside two zip sandwich bags inside a small bucket inside a plastic bag which was in turn inside a Tesco bag. The powder was identified as cocaine.
A follow-up search at the defendant’s property at Antrim Road in Ballymena located three quarters of a kilo of herbal cannabis; 50 grammes of white powder suspected to be cocaine and approximately £20,000 in cash, the majority of which was in £1,000 bundles.
There were also scales: “hundreds of deal bags” and “numerous note pads and pieces of papers were seized with names, numbers and the amounts”.
The officer told the court: “These ‘deal lists’ had significant quantities listed beside the names”.
The court heard one of the mobile phones was triaged and “messages and photos relating to drugs” were present.
It was alleged “multiple short phone calls” had been made to a number of people in the hour leading up to the police stop “which police believe were part of the logistics of collecting the large amount” of cocaine.
When interviewed the defendant said he failed to stop for police “because he had stuff in his car”.
The officer said Birt told police he had thrown items into a Tesco bag and out of the vehicle on the Tully Road and that it was cocaine which he had “just collected in the Ballyclare area to deliver to someone in Ballymena”.
The officer said Birt admitted possessing cocaine and cannabis and intent to supply cannabis and said the ‘deal lists’ were in relation to “his supply of cannabis”.
The policeman said Birt admitted his intent to supply the cocaine to another person “although he stated he was just delivering the large amount found on the Tully Road that night” and told police he was paid “£500” to make the delivery but refused to give officers further details.
The court heard the defendant admitted the 50 grammes of cocaine found “in his house in deal bags” would have been for supplying to others as he did not take drugs himself.
Birt told police he would supply those drugs in half gramme amounts costing £40 each.
The officer told the court the defendant said the money seized was “from his pension”.
The officer said the total estimated value of the drugs was “between £62-£69,000” which included £55,000 of cocaine and the cannabis was worth between £7,000 to £14,000 depending on the street value.
The officer objected to bail saying: “Police are aware of a significant amount of this type of criminality in the area”.
The officer added: “Given that this appears to be the defendant’s source of income there would be a high chance that he would re-offend whilst on bail”.
The court heard the defendant did not have any previous drugs offences.
Defence barrister Aaron Thompson said: “This is a really unusual case; he has admitted connection to the cocaine which was thrown from the car, that is the one thing he could have made a case about.
“He could have said ‘that is nothing to do with me, I didn’t throw that from the car’. He has made a fairly clean breast of things. He has placed himself as some sort sort of delivery driver.”
The lawyer said he had yet to fully engage with the defendant and “there might be something exceptional in the background that I do not know about yet. I am not sure about duress or any other issues.”
Mr Thompson added that the defendant “has given an account, he has connected himself to all of these offences, by and large, he has made the job for the police, broadly speaking, very, very, easy in terms of connecting him to the case”.
He added that the defendant had a pension and said it was incorrect to say that he needed to get involved with drugs to “fund himself”.
District Judge Nigel Broderick said the defendant faces serious charges involving “significant quantities of drugs with intent to supply.”
The judge said there was clearly a case to answer given the circumstances of Birt’s arrest; the findings after searches and “some admissions” in interview.
The judge said there “appears to be an element of sophistication in terms of the quantity of drugs; the extensive ‘deal lists’; the information on the phones and his attempt to evade arrest by driving away over a ‘stinger’ and continuing until such times as his vehicle would take him no further”.
Judge Broderick refused bail saying there was a risk of further offences and given the defendant’s actions at the scene there was an element of risk he would not turn up for trial.
The case has been adjourned to December.