Career criminal helped mate out by driving stolen Honda to Barnsley

Matthew Rhodes has been jailed
Matthew Rhodes has been jailed -Credit:South Yorkshire Police

A career-criminal claimed to be just transporting a stolen car filled with crack cocaine and heroin for his friend.

Matthew Rhodes, 22, was caught by police driving on the M1 southbound at around 1.10am on April 6 this year. A police officer who saw him noted the white Honda he was driving was linked to an incident he had worked on the week before, Leeds Crown Court heard on Thursday.

Lydia Carroll said: "He [Rhodes] turned into Craven Hill Road. The defendant was the only person in the car and was put in the back of a police vehicle while checks were carried out. He said he had been paid by a friend to drive it to Barnsley. Checks found it had been stolen from South Elmsall...He had been disqualified from driving."

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The court heard a search was carried out and in a jacket, officers found a golf ball-sized object wrapped in plastic containing several white bags. Inside was later revealed to be cocaine. Rhodes told police: "That's not mine, it's not my jacket."

A Samsung phone and SIM card was also found in a jacket pocket. Rhodes was arrested and a search of the vehicle was carried out. Officers found in two cigarette cases bags of 30 wraps of brown and white substance, later found to be crack cocaine. It was said the brown powder was not tested but it was believed it was heroin. Another small plastic bag with white powder inside and a Nokia phone were also discovered.

Ms Carroll said: "[The phone] was believed to have messages associated with drugs. Texts were believed to have addresses and requests for drugs and details of when drugs would be dropped off...Some of the dates of these messages were when he was in custody. The suggestion to be put forward is that phone was in the car already."

The prosecutor said that the total of drugs found had an estimated value of between £1,000 and £1,300. Ms Carroll said Rhodes in his police interview "confirmed he had been paid to drive the car, thinking it was legitimate."

It was said he had 18 convictions for 31 previous offences including driving without a licence and insurance and possession of drugs, to which the defendant said was "half a bag of week and half a bag of coke."

The court heard in relation to the offences he was to be sentenced for on Wednesday, he had pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply class A drugs, driving while disqualified and driving without a licence.

Mitigating, Adrian Pollard described Rhodes, of Craven Hill, Barnsley, as "a young man with a very difficult background." He said: "From year four he was removed from school because of behavioural problems and placed in a school for children with specific needs. He moved between schools of a similar nature and ended up in a school and that place broke down and his education was very much impacted...

"Relationships at home have been very difficult because of his behavioural problems. He has never been told if he has a formal diagnosis for anything but there have been concerns about his mental health and the possibility of him hearing voices but not to the extent there were any issues with his ability to plead guilty, but perhaps putting into perspective of how he has behaved. He has been in custody for around five of the last six years because of recall of custodial sentences and he does recognise that he is the one to behave."

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The court was told that after his release in February, Rhodes tried to find work through the Job Centre and contacting companies but was unable to do so and became involved with people of similar backgrounds. Mr Pollard added: "He is adamant he was asked to take this vehicle from A to B, but he knows he was involved in the supply of drugs...He wouldn't have been very far up the food chain and has been recalled."

His Honour Judge Stubbs KC jailed Rhodes for 28 months and told him: "You're 22 and you are amassing a really bad record. It's so important that whatever I do today, you know I can only do one thing and give you a prison sentence. It's so important that whatever that is you don't give up on yourself."

Rhodes replied: "And make the most of it..."

Judge Stubbs added: "You know when you give up you will stop trying to stay out of trouble and these sentences will get longer and longer. You have moved up from the criminality you was doing and are involving yourself in drug dealing."