Police have praised the weekly Accrington Observer after one of its reporters helped convict a well-known drugs dealer who had been creating mayhem on a troubled council estate.
Reporter Laura Sharpe had played a crucial part in the arrest of Karl Bates after she had nurtured contacts with residents on the estate for many months. Residents told Sharpe they had complained to the police about Bates’s actions, but their complaints had come to very little.
Eventually Bates’s neighbour handed Sharpe a DVD, which showed queues of people outside the dealer’s home and contained audible voices, which made it evident that drug deals were taking place.
A court heard that both Bates and the neighbour had security cameras installed outside their homes on what was believed to be a wireless system.
The neighbour claims to have accidentally tapped into the dealer’s camera recording, which revealed that in four hours, 24 people had approached the window.
Exchanges of drugs and cash were clearly visible on the recording. The Accrington Observer handed the evidence into the police station and within two hours, police raided the home and arrested Bates — inviting Sharpe and a photographer to accompany them and report the event.
The police found amphetamines, cannabis, weapons, two gas canisters and a stun gun. The raid made the Observer’s splash, and the paper included footage from the DVD.
Last week Bates pleaded guilty to possession of drugs with intent to supply, and to possession of prohibited weapons. He has been warned he faces a jail sentence.
Sergeant Bob Eaton of Accrington police, who worked with the Observer on the case, said: “As soon as we saw the DVD we acted quickly and conducted a quality search.
“A lot of the evidence came from the original DVD and helped with Bates’s conviction.” Editor Mervyn Kay said: “Laura carried out a thorough investigation on this tough estate, which culminated in her being given the DVD.
“She was absolutely instrumental in bringing this drug dealer to justice.”