Judge says drugs have made Welsh town centre 'a no-go area for many'

Police custody photographs of Lisa Amass, Ryan Huxtable, and Thomas Norman
-Credit: (Image: South Wales Police)

A judge has said that a "plague" of drugs has turned Neath town centre into a "no-go area" for many people. The judge made his comments as he jailed three people for a cocaine dealing operation masterminded by a mystery man known only as "P" which was shipping the Class A drug from Birmingham to the Welsh town.

Lisa Amass, Ryan Huxtable, and Thomas Norman were supplying cocaine to users via a drugs line known as the "Pinky line" which was named after the nickname of the woman who was controlling the phone. Sending the trio down a judge told them people like them were prepared to destroy lives in order to fund their own drug addictions.

Swansea Crown Court heard that on October 18 last year police executed a search warrant at a flat on Stockham's Corner in Neath town centre. Georgia Donohue, prosecuting, said in the property were the tenant Huxtable along with co-defendant Norman, and a search of flat uncovered a number of knives, a so-called tick list of moneys owed, and a bag-for-life shopping bag containing ketamine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, and "drugs paraphernalia".

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She said while officers were at the address they noticed a person at an address across the road who seemed to be taking a particular interest in their presence and they went to investigate. In that second property the officers found Amass hiding under a duvet on the bed along with five mobile phones and a pink-coloured book which contained a ledger detailing drugs supplied and moneys owed. Amass - who goes by the nickname "Pinky" - originally gave officers a false name, and when police established her real identity and asked why she had lied the 42-year-old said it was because she was scared.

The court heard that when the three defendants' phones were examined officers found extensive contact between them and with a man known only as "P" in Birmingham who appeared to be in charge of the operation. They also found Amass was responsible for running a county lines drugs phone known as the "Pinky line" which was supplying cocaine in Neath. The court heard the investigation subsequently found that Amass and 52-year-old Norman had travelled separately to Neath from the Birmingham area in the month before the police raid, and that Neath-man Huxtable had made five cars journeys to Birmingham and back in the previous weeks to bring new stocks of cocaine. The investigation also found 47-year-old Huxtable had been running his own separate cannabis supply business since March 2022.

Lisa Amass, of Quarr Road, Neath, Ryan Huxtable, of Stockham's Corner, Neath, and Thomas Norman, of Eva Street, Melin, Neath, had all previously pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of cocaine when they appeared in the dock for sentencing. Huxtable and Norman had also previously pleaded guilty to the simple possession of drugs, and Huxtable to being concerned in the supply of cannabis. Amass has six previous convictions for six offences including supplying a Class A drug and being concerned in the supply of a Class A drug. Huxtable has nine previous convictions for 11 offences including one for causing a child to engage in sexual activity but no drug-related matters. The sexual offence involved Huxtable getting a boy to touch the breasts of a sleeping woman, an offence for which he was sentenced to two years in prison suspended for two years. Norman has 19 previous convictions for 49 offences the majority of which are for matters of dishonesty but which include the simple possesison of drugs. For the latest court reports, sign up to our crime newsletter here

Josh Radcliffe, for Amass, said the defendant was "somewhat stunned" to find herself back in court facing sentence for Class A trafficking some 20 years after her last such offence. He said when his client accepted an invitation from the man known as "P" to go to Neath to visit relatives she did not think matters would develop in the way they had, and he described her as a vulnerable woman who had been exploited. The barrister added that Amass had told him she had now found God and wants to "pursue her faith".

Alycia Carpanini, for Huxtable, said the defendant began taking cannabis recreationally and then for pain management but his use of that "gateway drug" escalated into Class A drug use and eventually into an "extensive crack cocaine habit". She said the defendant made five trips to Birmingham to transport drugs back to Neath and was paid for each journey with crack. The barrister added that Huxtable was now off drugs and was on the "clean wing" at Swansea prison, and that he was remorseful and embarrassed about his involvement in the operation.

Jon Tarrant, for Norman, said though the defendant had an extensive antecedent record this was his first appearance at a crown court, and he said while being held on remand his client had worked to tackle his alcohol and drug addictions.

Judge Geraint Walters said Neath was suffering from a "plague" of drugs as was obvious to anyone who had driven through the town centre, and he said that situation was thanks to people like the trio in the dock who were "prepared to destroy lives in order to fund their own addiction". He added: "The scourge of drugs had turned Neath town centre in a no-go area for many".

With discounts for their guilty pleas Amass was sentenced to four years in prison, Norman to four-and-a-half years, and Huxtable to four years - the judge activated six months of Huxtable's previously imposed suspended sentence for sexual offending and ordered it should run consecutively to the drug offences making his overall sentence four-and-a-half years. The defendants will serve up to half their sentences in custody before being released on licence to serve the remainder in the community.

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