Third time unlucky | 

Coke dealer who had throat slashed in prison is jailed again after third arrest

Michael Collins (61) who was once part of a notorious kidnap gang, has now been jailed for more than seven years

Michael Collins

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

A cocaine dealer who had his throat slashed while in prison has been jailed again after continuing to sell drugs despite being arrested three times.

Michael Collins (61) who was once part of a notorious kidnap gang, has now been jailed for more than seven years after continuing to sell drugs throughout Hartlepool.

Collins was in custody in 2017, 2019 and 2021 after being caught with huge amounts of drugs.

But every time he was released pending further investigation he continued to operate as soon as he walked out of the police station.

Collins was jailed in 2008 after being part of a gang who bundled businessman Tony Pattison into the back of a van, at gunpoint in Seaton Carew in 2004.

The gang demanded a £25,000 ransom and the building contractor was freed 30 hours after his abduction.

Tens of thousands of pounds was handed over, but later recovered by police in a sting operation.

The kidnap followed a dispute over the supply of contraband tobacco, Monday's sentencing hearing at Teesside Crown Court was told.

Collins' barrister, Martin Scarborough, said that his client spent a long time in hospital after he was attacked in jail during a seven-and-a-half year sentence handed down for the kidnap and blackmail.

Teesside Crown Court heard that when he was eventually released, Collins was held to the "significant debt" for the tobacco that had been found and confiscated.

It was then that he had started to sell drugs but was seen by police carrying a Tesco's bag out of his flat on Melrose Street in Hartlepool on August 4, 2017.

Officers arrested him after they found 243g of cocaine, worth between £10-15,000.

Collins had 10 bags of cocaine, of 86 per cent purity, worth approximately £1,200, and £1,015 in cash in his pocket.

When his car was searched, more cocaine and amphetamines were found. In his flat, officers found ecstasy, cannabis and more amphetamines as well as a "tick list" of customers and digital scales.

Prosecutor Paul Abrahams told the court that Collins refused to answer police questions, and he was released while further investigations were carried out.

Three days later, Collins was stopped while driving southbound on the A19 with £9,335 cash on him.

His flat on Melrose Place was searched again and this time officers found cannabis, amphetamines and 53grams of cocaine - of 95 per cent purity.

Again, Collins was arrested and released by police, as they continued to investigate.

In February of last year, Collins was stopped again in his car - which Recorder David Gordon said was, "like a pharmacy inside" and he was arrested and released for the third time.

In May 2021, Collins was arrested on York Road in Hartlepool after a search of a room in The Station Hotel, Port Clarence, uncovered cannabis. Police searched another flat associated with Collins, on York Road, and found 26 grams of amphetamines.

The court heard that over £100,000 of drugs were recovered from Collins over five years.

Collins, of Crosby Terrace in Port Clarence, pleaded guilty to four counts of the possession with intent to supply a class A drug; nine counts of the possession with intent to supply a class B drug; seventeen counts of the possession with the intent to supply a class C drug; and two counts of the possession of criminal property.

In addition to cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines and cannabis; Collins was also dealing in tramadol; pregabalin and zopiclone. He has 16 previous convictions for 38 offences, which included dealing in cannabis.

Mr Scarborough told the court that Collins resorted to drug dealing after being pursued over the "significant debt" stemming from his previous buying and selling of cigarettes.

This had been his "motivation for offending this time,” the defence barrister argued, adding that his client, who is a father and a grandfather, is now, "not in the best of health," as he struggles with COPD and emphysema.

Sentencing Collins, Recorder Gordon said: " Those who deal in class A drugs - effectively supplying poison to addicts on the street - can expect lengthy prison sentences. They cause devastation; misery to addicts and misery for those who care for drug users.

"They see their loved one change from decent human beings to something rather less."

Collins was jailed for seven-years-and-four-months. A proceeds of crime application was scheduled, meaning any money and assets Collins has, are at risk of being confiscated.

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