SIX people – four men and two women – appeared at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Saturday charged in relation to a police undercover operation targeting the sale of cocaine in the Coleraine area.
All six are from Coleraine and face charges including supplying cocaine; possession of the Class A drug with intent to supply and having cocaine on various dates.
Not all defendants could fit into the dock when they were brought into court at the same time.
Ellen Culbertson (26), of Carthall Road and Jonathan Paul Drake (30), of Pates Lane, each face 22 charges; while Corey Kennedy (21), of Hazelbank Road, faces 18 charges.
Jonathan Neill (23), of Westbourne Crescent, is accused of nine offences and Alan Francis Cahoon (59), of Cypress Drive and Catherine Michelle Henderson (46), of Society Street, each face six charges.
A lawyer for Drake, Kennedy and Neill said no application was being made for bail and they were remanded in custody.
Bail applications were successfully made for Culbertson, Cahoon and Henderson.
There was a large police presence in the court grounds including three police vans and five police cars. Several family members and friends of the accused were in the public gallery.
A detective sergeant said she believed she could connect all the accused to the charges and she was seeking all the accused to be remanded in custody.
The officer told the court the arrests were as a result of an “ongoing pro-active, covert operation” in the Coleraine area.
She said police observed Culbertson being concerned in the supply of cocaine in The Forge Bar in Coleraine and she also alleged that defendant was involved in similar offences at the forecourt of an Applegreen garage in Coleraine; Kelly’s nightclub in Portrush and Cathhall Road, Coleraine.
During a search of her property £200 worth of herbal cannabis was seized.
The officer she she believed Culbertson was a “trusted associate” with some of the other accused and that offences had allegedly been committed during the “course of her employment in the Forge Bar”.
A defence lawyer said Culbertson, who had one previous caution, was a single parent with a five-year-old child.
The police officer said the defendant had given a no comment interview and the defence lawyer alleged that when Culbertson was in the custody suite other defendants were shouting things to her about what she should do.
Turning to Henderson, who had a clear record, the police officer alleged she was also observed supplying cocaine in The Forge Bar and during a search of her home a bag of cocaine was found under a mattress.
A defence solicitor said the Henderson had never been in a police station before and that she had found drugs in a stairwell and kept them under the mattress so her daughter would not find them.
She said it was the defendant’s intention to dispose of them but she forgot about them.
The lawyer said Henderson’s 16-year-old daughter is doing GCSEs and the defendant was “just devastated” at being in court.
“The family have never been involved with the law,” said Henderson’s solicitor.
The detective sergeant said Cahoon was also allegedly spotted supplying cocaine at The Forge Bar.
A defence lawyer argued Cahoon was the “least culpable” of all the defendants.
The officer said that during interview the defendant denied supplying drugs and denied having any knowledge of some of the co-accused.
District Judge Liam McNally said: “This was obviously a major operation in the Coleraine area where the police have been monitoring the situation”.
He said they were “serious” charges and it was alleged that the defendants had been “heavily involved over a substantial period of time”.
The judge said he would release Culbertson, Henderson and Cahoon on their own bail of £500 with sureties of £750.
They are reside at addresses approved by police; are curfewed between 11pm and 7am and are not have any contact with any of the co-accused.
They are not to be in possession of illegal drugs and any they are only allowed to use a mobile phone for which they have notified the police of the number.
They also have to report to police twice a week.
All the cases were adjourned to Coleraine Magistrates Court on June 25.