Drug dealers targeting vulnerable students in Newcastle jailed

Six Newcastle drug dealers jailed for admitting to selling drugs to students

Sarah Myles
19th February 2024
Image Credit: Flickr
Several Newcastle drug dealers have been jailed after targeting students near student accommodations.

Newcastle Crown Court heard that after three student deaths, David Knowles, age 27, and his associates have been caught selling cocaine to undercover police. Six individuals along with Knowles have been jailed for up to five years and five months, with some suspended, for admitting various offences. Judge Penny Moreland stated that the students were an “easy target” due to struggles with student life post-COVID lockdowns. 

Prosecutor Michael Bunch shared that Northumbria Police wanted to address a "noticeable increase of drug supply to the student population of Newcastle", using an undercover operation from February to October 2021. Bunch stated that the drug-related deaths of three students were the "immediate trigger" for the operation although there was "no suggestion" Knowles and his co-accused were involved in those specific cases. An undercover officer was able to make several deals for cocaine over the phone on multiple occasions by Knowles, in the Richardson Road area which is near several student accommodations. 

My Bunch has said that Kieran Cash, aged 27, William Campbell, aged 22, and Knowles' partner Charlotte Johnstone, aged 22, were also present at deals with the undercover officer. Dealers Hamzah Ali, aged 27 and Dilawar Tariq, aged 21, along with Knowles, source their drugs from “upstream”, the court heard. Both Ali and Tariq operate their own drugs supply chains in Newcastle. 

Tariq was caught in the student area with almost £2,000 worth of drugs after being arrested and released. During mitigation, barrister Tony Cornberg said that Knowles, who worked as a doorman, felt “regret” and “disgust” for his offensive actions. He also said that Knowles suffered a "very unfortunate start in life" with a "horrendous" childhood featuring physical and emotional abuse with criminal behaviour being "normalised.”

For Kieran Cash, Glenn Gatland said that he had a serious kidney illness and has been “beaten up” and “threatened” into selling drugs by Knowles as a consequence of accumulating drug debt. 

For Ali, Gerard Doran said that he had shown remorse and was seeking to "change his way of life", sharing that he "became involved in the use of and supply of drugs" after suffering depression due to a bereavement.

For Tariq, Peter Schofield said that the youngest defendant had accumulated £3,000 worth of debt through his use of cannabis, leading to his involvement in dealing, adding that he was "now a much more mature individual.”

Tariq admitted his possession with the intent to supply Class A drugs and Ali possessing with intent to supply Class B drugs, whilst Knowles admitted to possessing an illegally powerful air rifle. 

Penny Moreland, the judge, stated that all the defendants were "responsible for supplying cocaine into the student community in Newcastle with the consequent harm from that activity". She added that Ali and Tariq had "senior roles" in the gang whilst Cash had a "management" position and Knowles was a "trusted lieutenant.”

Six defendants, who admitted conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, were sentenced to the following:

  • David Knowles, 27, of Beaumont Court, Blaydon, jailed for three years
  • Charlotte Johnstone, 22, of Beaumont Court, Blaydon, jailed for 21 months suspended for two years with 250 hours unpaid work
  • Hamzah Ali, 27, of Brighton Grove, Newcastle, jailed for three years three months
  • Tariq Dilawar, 21, of Wingrove Road, Newcastle, jailed for five years five months
  • Kieran Cash, 27, of Strothers Road, High Spen, jailed for two years eight months
  • William Campbell, 22, of Burnopfield Road, Rowlands Gill, jailed for 21 months suspended for two years with 150 hours unpaid work

Billy Galbraith, aged 31 from Ainslie Place, Newcastle, admitted to possessing Class B cannabis with intent to supply and possession of Class A MDMA. He was sentenced to nine months in prison suspended for 12 months, with 150 hours unpaid work.

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