By Paul Higgins
Refusing to free 30-year-old Whitney Hughes, District Judge Eamon King said “she’s part of what’s obviously a serious OCG in some shape or fashion and she must face the consequences when police, doing their duty, find the matters in this case – cash, drugs, phones, you name it.”
Hughes, from Ardcarn Park in the city, faces 14 counts in total including 12 drug charges relating to possessing, supplying and intending to supply heroin, cocaine, cannabis and amphetamine and two further charges relating to possessing criminal cash and trading in counterfeit football clothing, all alleged to have been committed on 4 July this year.
Newry Magistrates Court heard that when officers from the organised crime unit raided a locked storage container on the Mountain Road in the city, they uncovered the “full spectrum” of drugs including seven kilos of cannabis, 200 grams of cocaine and 113 grams of heroin as well as bundles of cash amounting to 12,000 Euro and suspected counterfeit football clothing.
In addition cops also found “scales and other drug paraphernalia” along with a gold plated IPhone stamped “gold for you first edition” and a “gold for you business card” which matches Hughes’ business name.
In court on Wednesday, Det. Const. McAteer revealed the drugs seized had an estimated street value of around £130,000 but that by her own admission, Hughes’ business had only made £3,500 in the year preceding the seizures.
Claiming that the police can “substantially link” Hughes to the container in that she was recorded on cctv signing the lease for it, the officer submitted that not only will Hughes be “repaying that £130,000 for a very long time….it can only be repaid through illegal means.”
“She said she was approached by a person from the estate who asked to use her container and she felt this was someone she couldn’t say no to,” said the cop, adding that police feared there is risk of further offences if she wouldn’t be able to say no to that person again.
Claiming that Hughes “is a small part of a larger OCG,” the detective told the court that a “member of a rival faction” had warned the defendants mother that Hughes should stay out of Newry.
“Two males went to her mothers house and told her not to come back to Newry again.
“Her father’s house was attacked in a shooting in Dundalk in October, killing his dog and striking him.
“We believe that there’s an ongoing feud in newry and south Armagh for the supply of drugs and releasing her into that, to an address that’s been identified by a rival faction is a risk that we cannot manage,” the officer submitted.
While defence solicitor Chris Logue lamented delays in the case progressing, DJ King retorted there may have been more if Hughes had divulged the PIN codes for the three mobile phones seized.
Conceding that Hughes faces “scary charges”, the lawyer highlighted that she had an almost clear record whereas “there’s people with records as long as your arm on bail for serious violence.”
“I’m asking you to give her a chance,” Mr Logue pleaded but DJ King was not for turning.
“The articles seized are the full spectrum of someone who is involved in serious crime in selling drugs, storing and supplying them,” said the judge, warning that “it’s an example for anybody” as to the consequences if they “become involved in this type of enterprise.”
Refusing bail and remanding Hughes back into custody, he adjourned the case to 21 December.