Drug dealer ‘fled St Helens to escape Liverpool gangs’

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A third strike drug dealer said he fled St Helens to escape gangs from Liverpool moving into the town.

Shawn Harmon was caught with an estimated £1,650 of crack cocaine and heroin in the bedroom of his flat.

The 50-year-old, who has 41 previous convictions for a staggering 118 offences, has twice been locked up for Class A drug dealing.

But he claimed he was "pressured" into flogging this latest stash by people who told him that he owed them money after he was last released from jail in 2019.

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Police raided Harmon's home in Lower Hall Street, St Helens, at around 10.30am, on September 12 that year.

Liverpool Crown Court heard Harmon was present and struggled with officers, before the property was searched.

Frances Willmott, prosecuting, said police recovered 59 "end user deals of cocaine" valued at £10 each.

There were 41 £10 wraps of heroin, plus "a large bag of heroin" weighing just over 10g and valued at £650.

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Officers also seized £225 in cash, a tick list and drug paraphernalia including scales.

Harmon explained some smaller quantities of drugs belonged to him, but gave a no comment interview to police.

His criminal record is mainly for dishonesty and vehicle crime, but he has 14 previous offences related to drugs.

They include possessing heroin with intent to supply in October 2006 and conspiracy to supply heroin and cocaine in July 2017.

Harmon, whose address was given in court as Phoenix Brow, St Helens, denied any wrongdoing and was set to stand trial this July.

But when he appeared in the dock this morning he admitted two offences of possessing Class A drugs with intent to supply.

Steven McHugh, defending, said his client told him previously "I just couldn't face going into custody when the Covid pandemic was at its height".

The lawyer accepted it "wasn't very attractive" that when Harmon last came out of prison, within a short time he was back offending again, while still on licence.

He said Harmon had been homeless, started associating with people he had before and was told he owed money, relating to his past drug dealing.

Mr McHugh said Harmon then "started dealing to discharge his debt".

He said: "He was pressured, I think that's the kindest way to put it, to repay what he owed. He did that effectively by reverting to type."

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Mr McHugh said following his arrest in September 2019, his client "changed his ways", knew he had to move out of the area, and left St Helens.

The lawyer told the court: "There were organised gangs from Liverpool moving into St Helens.

"He was having problems, for obvious reasons. He moved out completely."

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Mr McHugh said after initially finding himself homeless again, Harmon was put into a hostel in Manchester and had lived there since, where he made "good progress" under supervision and hadn't reoffended.

He said: "There is a realistic prospect of rehabilitation. He's shown what he can do when he moves away from the peers and life he had before."

Mr McHugh said his client's partner sitting in the public gallery had "stood by him" and would continue to do so while he was in prison.

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Judge Louise Brandon told Harmon: "You know that these offences are so serious that only a significant custodial sentence is appropriate and commensurate with the seriousness of the offences."

She said because it was his third conviction for dealing Class A drugs, a minimum sentence of seven years in prison applied, minus credit of 20% for his guilty plea.

Judge Brandon said aggravating features included that Harmon was on licence at the time, but mitigation included that he was "obviously not in good health".

The judge accepted he would find prison "particularly difficult" and said she would take him at his word that he intended to put his life of crime behind him when he is next released from prison.

Judge Brandon also observed that Harmon was fortunate to have the support of his girlfriend.

She jailed him for 2,045 days, which she said was slightly less than five years and eight months.

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