Former Watford youth footballer convicted over attempt to trick drugs trial jury

Exeter Crown Court. Picture: Archant

Exeter Crown Court. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

A county lines drug dealer who got a friend to try to fool a jury into letting him off has had his sentence extended.

Darren Morgan used two illegally held mobile phones to contact a friend in London from his cell in Exeter Prison while he was awaiting trial so they could cook up a bogus defence.

The prosecution case against him relied on data from the phones which he had used to organise drug deals in Exeter. Cell site data also tracked his movements and showed he made delivery trips to Devon.

Morgan got a friend called Patrick Richards to obtain documents which made it look as if the phone belonged to him instead of Morgan.

The plot failed and Morgan was found guilty of drug dealing in September last year and was jailed for seven years.

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Morgan is a former youth footballer with premiership side Watford but went off the rails after starting to smoke cannabis as a teenager.

He ended up running his own drug supply line and was arrested while driving a £70,000 hired Mercedes sports car through Ottery St Mary on his way to Exeter. He boasted he was making £2,000 a week.

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The 32-year-old from Hackney, admitted conspiracy to attempt to pervert the course of justice and possession of a contraband mobile phone in Exeter Prison.

On Thursday, September 12 he was jailed for a further 16 months by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court and will serve the new sentence after he completes the original one.

The judge told him: "You put forward the false defence that a mobile phone which contained damning evidence was not yours, but belonged to Mr Richards, who was a friend or acquaintance.

"He gave evidence at your trial and produced a document purporting to come from the mobile phone provider. The attempt failed and you were convicted.

"It is right to emphasise this was an attempt to pervert the course of justice which failed but it did cause an additional police investigation.

"The harm which this conspiracy risked was very great indeed; that of misleading the jury and engineering an unjust outcome to the trial, although in the event Mr Richards was not an impressive witness.

"It is hard to imagine a worse example of the use of an illegal mobile phone in prison. It was used in a conspiratorial arrangement."

Peter Coombe, prosecuting, said Mr Richards made his statement before Morgan's trial last year but police realised it was false and arrested him. He still went through with giving a false account in court.

Sally Daulton, defending, said Morgan had admitted the offences and regrets what he did. He denies putting pressure on Mr Richards to help him.

She said he comes from a good family and had a promising future as a footballer until he became involved with drugs. He is now doing all the courses available to him in prison and plans to work as a jewellery designer when he is released.

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