Devon's 'Mr Snow' jailed after undercover police sting

Harrison Richards - jailed for supplying cocaine to an undercover police officer
-Credit: (Image: Devon and Cornwall Police)

A teenage drug dealer who advertised his wares on social media, calling himself 'Mr Snow of Plymouth', has been jailed after he repeatedly sold cocaine to an undercover police officer.

Harrison Richards - aged just 19 - appeared at Plymouth Crown Court after pleading guilty to a string of charges involving the possession and supply of cocaine between November 2023 and March 2024.

Prosecutor Heather Hope explained that Richards, of Sutherland Road, Plymouth, had set himself up on social media as a "self-styled 'Mr Snow of Plymouth'". She said said users would contact him through Snapchat and other social media apps to order cocaine.

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On November 8, an undercover police officer, using the name 'Laura' - contacted him to arrange to buy £40 of cocaine. He turned up a short while later at a pre-arranged location driven "by another" in a black VW car.

They made the exchange before telling her he would message her his personal phone number as he "like to meet somebody in person before he passed them his number." She later replied and he added her name and number into his contacts.

'Laura' made subsequent purchases of cocaine on November 14 and November 28 and when tested, the drugs were found to be 80 percent pure, which Ms Hope said was "high".

On December 5 Richards was arrested by police as he walked from an address in Sutherland Road. The court heard he smelled strongly of cannabis and was in possession of two mobile phones - one of which had the same number as he had sent to 'Laura' and both had messages related to drug dealing.

A search of his nearby home revealed a quantity of white powder, ziplock bags, digital scales, and a list helpfully headed "tick list" - a list of buyers who are 'ticked off' when their debt is cleared.

Officers also found zombie knives and air weapons, along with £7,400 in cash. He was arrested and taken to Charles Cross police station custody suite and on interview he replied 'no comment' to all questions. He was later released on bail.

The court heard that on January 24 this year, 'Laura' contacted him again to request drugs, whereupon he told her about the raid he had suffered. He claimed police had seized £15,000 from him, "five ounces of sniff, knives and airguns".

Ms Hope said that having discussed how "the town was too hot for him to deal drugs in" Richards arranged to meet her at a local gym where he sold her £40 worth of cocaine. However, while he was with 'Laura' he told her even more about the raid, explaining that he had not provided the police with his phones' PIN code and that they had found was a "block of cocaine".

'Laura' called Richards again on February 1 and again he sold her a £40 bag of cocaine.

On February 24 this year Richards contacted 'Laura' offering her what he called a 'business venture' he thought she would be interested in. Over the next few days he explained how he needed a place to store "the stuff that she liked" meaning cocaine. He later phoned her and explained that he needed to store a "brick to a half a brick of cocaine" and would pay her £50 a week, saying that the woman who was storing his drugs was "unreliable".

On March 7 he met with 'Laura' who showed him a lock-up garage for him to use to store his drugs. He gave her his new mobile phone but asked her to use the app Telegram as it deleted messages automatically.

The court heard that on March 21 'Laura' called asking to buy more cocaine but he replied that he had to check, explaining the he was "being followed by 'undies'", meaning undercover police. He said he could sell her some, but it would have to be in her own home.

Later that same day Richards was arrested on the way to her supposed home on foot. He was found to be in possession of a vape and examination of it revealed seven ziplock bags of cocaine, each weighing around 0.5 grams, totalling 3.89 grams. Officers also found two more vapes, again containing £40 deals, which together amounted to around £360 worth of cocaine.

Richards home was again searched and found further quantities of cocaine, some hidden inside vapes, along with digital scales, and other drugs paraphernalia. During police interview Richards again answered 'no comment'. Ms Hope noted that during the time of these offences, Richards was already subject to a 12 month community order in relation to the possession of cocaine, cannabis and a knife.

In mitigation, his advocate Will Parkhill remarked on Richards' aged, and his "level of maturity" as well as his "degree of naivety".

He noted how Richards' behaviour made the police's work "easy". He explained how his client had left school at 16 and got a job, but lost it "through no fault of his own", adding that he had suffered a health issue while working at the dockyard where he would suddenly and inexplicably lose consciousness on a regular basis, which was never fully explained.

He said Richards went on to live independently where a "burgeoning" addiction to class A drugs developed. He noted the pre-sentence report which noted that he "had promise" but Judge Stephen Climie noted that if he considered something like a suspended sentence for such a series of offences the Crown "could and should" refer the sentence via the Attorney General to be increased.

Judge Climie noted that in the future "many judges" would look at Richards' pattern of behaviour and consider a third strike would result in a minimum sentence of seven years.

Turning to Richards, Judge Climie noted the presence of family and supporters in court, adding that he hoped the 19-year-old "understands not just the seriousness in criminal terms of your behaviour but also the seriousness of this behaviour when it comes to the health and wellbeing of those who use class A drugs."

He added: "We have to deal with fatalities week in, week out. You may have heard how in North Devon two people lost their lives using class A drugs. It's happening all around the country. The term 'recreational drugs' is, frankly, an outrage. There it is - that's how many young people now regard cocaine, even though it puts their wellbeing, future prospects and lives at risk every time they take a line."

He said "very little" he could say or do at this sentencing hearing would change that attitude by young people, but he said the Sentencing Council's guidelines showed that judges had to note how the public and police would not accept that this behaviour could be "condone in any way".

Judge Climie warned Richards that if he had been in his 30s then the least sentence would have been six years. As it was he had to reduce it due to Richards' early guilty plea and had to be mindful of his age, not that his immaturity "played a significant role".

In total for the eight offences offences he passed an overall sentence of two years and nine months, but with an additional three months to run consecutively for the previous offences of possession of cocaine, cannabis and a knife, for which he had initially received a community order. He told Richards he would be sent to a Young Offenders Institution for three years, minus the time on remand.

After Richards was taken down to the cells Judge Climie told the public gallery where Richards' family were sat that on first look at the case he had considered a longer sentence, but the sentence he finally passed was due in part to the "level of support" on show and the "real hope" that this would be his last offence.

He also thanked the officers for their work, remarking that it was not the first case he had overseen where "young men and women feel able to advertise themselves as sellers of drugs online, but I appreciate it's very difficult work at the moment for all of you, so thank you."

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