A desperate man was blackmailed into becoming a drug dealer when loan sharks demanded £27,000 after he borrowed just £2,000.
Ryan Craggs was sent torture threats, warned that his wife would have acid thrown in her face, while his son was actually attacked.
During the terror campaign, where the lenders demanded more and more money, the family’s horse had its throat cut.
Loan sharks would turn up and take vehicles belonging to the family, which they said would reduce but still not settle the enormous debt.
Newcastle Crown Court heard, with the interest rate rising every day, Craggs, of Avon Crescent, Fence Houses, agreed to sell drugs in return for the debt being wiped out.
The 36-year-old was caught by the police in August last year with 48 wraps of crack cocaine hidden behind the ashtray compartment in his car while driving along Front Street in Fence Houses.
He confessed he had been selling £20 deals to customers for about three weeks.
Craggs pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply and would usually have faced years behind bars.
But Judge Paul Sloan QC told him:
“Unusually, and I state this in open court, there is independent evidence to corroborate much of what is said. This is clearly an unusual case.”
The judge sentenced him to 16 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with supervision and 120 hours’ unpaid work.
The judge told Craggs:
“I accept the circumstances and that you are thoroughly ashamed of your involvement.
“Unusually, most of your basis of plea was not disputed.”
The court heard Craggs had borrowed £2,000 at a time when he was unemployed and needed help to support his family.
He paid back £3,200 after being forced to sell his quad bike, but was told he still needed to pay more.
The situation turned nasty when he was unable to meet the payment demands.
Reading from his basis of plea, prosecutor Bridie Smurthwaite said:
“Threats were made to his daughter’s horse, which had its throat cut.
“There was also threats to his wife’s horse and his mother’s horse.
“A quad bike was taken and he was told one thousand pounds would be deducted from what he owed for that. He was also told if he didn’t get the money, his son would ‘get it’.
“His son was attacked, pulled off his scooter, his helmet pulled off and assaulted.
“At one point, he was told he owed £27,000. He was then told if he didn’t pay the money back, he would have to work for the lender.”
The court heard Craggs was pressured to work as a driver for the criminal gang in the summer of last year.
Miss Smurthwaite added:
“He did so because of what had previously happened.
“He and his wife were repeatedly subjected to threats to torture them, threatened there would be acid poured in his wife’s face.”
The court heard the lenders took Mrs Craggs’s car from her, which they said would reduce the mounting debt.
The worried dad agreed to the demands he should start dealing in the hope that he could finally free himself from the lenders.
He told detectives he had been selling £20 deals and had made about £10,000 for the lenders in the three weeks he was dealing.
Miss Smurthwaite said:
“He would not have supplied drugs but for the threats that were made and the intimidation he was subjected to.”
Source – Sunderland Echo, 23 Oct 2014
Despite grassroots protests, including occupation of threatened buildings, by Hands Off Sunderland Libraries, nine libraries across Sunderland have been closed by the city council, in a bid to save 850,000 pounds.
The libraries affected are those at Doxford Park, Easington Lane, East Herrington, Fence Houses, Hendon, Monkwearmouth, Silksworth, Southwick and Washington Green.
Coun. John Kelly, portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture: “This is a very emotive subject and we recognise the strength of people’s feelings.
“As I’ve said before, we probably wouldn’t have gone down this route if the council didn’t need to make 110 million pounds savings as a result of cuts from central government. The fact is the library service needs to save 850,000 pounds, so we have had to look at changing how we do things as budgets continue to be cut and resources become ever more stretched.
“As councillors, we have to make difficult decisions . Had savings not been made here, they may have had to fall on children’s or adults services.
“But I firmly believe that the new library service will be much more flexible to fit in with people’s needs and will result in better services reaching more people across a wider range of locations.”
Eh ? How does closing public services across a wide range of locations reach more people across those same locations ? I suspect the only flexibility resulting will be the closed service users, who’ll have to be a lot more flexible to find an open library.
How much will be saved really ? Has any account been taken of vacant buildings needing to be maintained, books and equipment to be mothballed, staff who lose their jobs ?
“Had savings not been made here, they may have had to fall on children’s or adults services.” A nice attempt at emotional blackmail, but what exactly are libraries if not children and adult services ?
And should it be either/or anyway ? We know only too well about the nature of the current national government, but Sunderland City Council is Labour controlled. Shouldn’t they – and other Labour controlled councils – be providing, you know, opposition ? Getting together and going head-to-head with the government perhaps ? Making a moral stand ?
We’ve been promised years more austerity, whoever wins the next general election. Now the process has been started, which libraries will be next ?
As noted in no less an organ than Private Eye (#1349) –
Sunderland library chiefs have some handy advice on what can replace local libraries facing closure.
“Because of Facebook, because of gadgets, we dont need libraries the way we used to when I was 15,” Cllr Graeme Miller told a public meeting, which agreed proposals for the closure of nine libraries to save #850,000 a year.
Quite apart from how completely un-useful Facebook is for most homework, research or reading for pleasure, Sunderland is part of the UK region with the highest concentration of people off-line, with a recent survey finding only 42% of less well off people in the city had online access from any type of “gadget”, including computers, smart phones and so on.
Hands Off Sunderland Libraries on Facebook at –