Woman acting as ‘money-keeper’ for drug-dealing neighbour she met during lockdown is jailed

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A woman began helping a neighbour with her drug-dealing operating after befriending her during the Covid lockdown, a court has heard.

Helen Garrington’s role was to look after the money for her heroin-dealing neighbour.

Swansea Crown Court heard Garrington had become isolated during the pandemic restrictions and, feeling low, had been given cocaine which started a downward spiral in her life. The defendant now wants to move away from the block of flats in Swansea where the incident took place.

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Jim Davis, prosecuting, said on May 19 last year police patrolling around the High Street and Dyfatty areas of Swansea saw a group of people gathered around a car parked in the car park of the Matthew Street flats. The person in the car was found to be in possession of heroin, cash, and a mobile phone and an examination of calls made to and from the phone led police to a flat in a nearby block occupied by a woman called Claire Tipping.

The court heard that in the flat police found 18.5g of “import-quality” crack cocaine, 10g of heroin, and drug-supply paraphernalia as well as Tipping and the defendant Garrington. When Garrington was searched she was found to be in possession of three Subutex tablets – a common heroin substitute medication – and £1,135 in cash, which she claimed belonged to her daughter. When the defendant’s phone was examined police found a text she had received the previous week which read: “Ask Claire if she can do me last 20 or even 10”. The prosecutor said this was a reference to the defendant being asked to pass on a request for drugs to Tipping.

Garrington subsequently gave a “no comment” interview to officers.

In May this year Tipping was sentenced to a total of four and a half years in prison for a string of drug supply offences.

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Helen Diane Garrington, of Croft Street, Dyfatty, Swansea, admitted being concerned in the supply of heroin and possession of Subutex. She has previous convictions for assault occasioning actual bodily harm, criminal damage, and dishonesty matters but none for drug offences.

Giles Hayes, for Garrington, said the defendant had been living “right in the middle” of an area of Swansea which had significant social problems including drug dealing. He said it was clear from a pre-sentence report that his client had mental health issues and had found the isolation imposed by the Covid lockdown very difficult to cope with. The advocate that it was during that period that Garrington befriended Tipping and had been given cocaine for her low mood and he said drug-taking along with the abuse of alcohol had led to her life spiralling out of control.

Mr Hayes said the defendant now realised she should never have associated with Tipping and, upon her release from custody, wants to be rehoused away from the Dyfatty area and closer to her daughter and support network in Birchgrove.

Judge Paul Thomas QC said he accepted Garrington had been the “junior partner” in the drug-dealing operation and that her role had been to safeguard the money which was coming in. He told the defendant that she herself knew the harm Class A drugs could do to a person’s life “yet had been prepared to spread that misery to others for your own purposes”.

The judge said he understood about Garrington’s mental health difficulties but that involvement in the supply of Class A drugs was too serious for any sentence other than one of immediate custody. Giving the defendant a 20% discount for her guilty pleas he sentenced her to two years and three months in prison for being concerned in the supply of heroin. No separate penalty was imposed for the possession of Subutex. Garrington will serve up to half the sentence in custody before being released on licence to serve the remainder in the community.

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