A Wem man allowed his home to be used by a gang of criminals as a “safe place” during the supply of Class A drugs in Shropshire, a court heard.

Drug addict Paul Watton was given an 18-month sentence – suspended for two years – after being part of a mobile phone network used to sell heroin and cocaine wraps in a 'buy one, get two' deals to addicts in the Whitchurch and Shrewsbury areas.

Watton, of Cordwell Park, Wem, must also complete a drug rehabilitation programme and carry out 80 hours unpaid work.

He had pleaded guilty to two charges of being concerned in the supply of heroin and cocaine in 2016.

Siobhan Collins, prosecuting, said Watton had provided a safe place for the drugs gang in Whitchurch which was vital in the supply operation.

She said the defendant first became involved in March, 2016, when the conspiracy was up and running in the county.

Telephone records show that Watton was in contact with a man involved in the conspiracy and detectives found wraps of heroin and crack cocaine, along with a set of electronic scales and cutters, at the Old Barn premises in Whitchurch.

In police interviews Watton initially denied knowledge of the conspiracy, but finally said the dealers had taken advantage of him because he was a drug addict.

Andrew Holland, for Watton, said his client was not like others involved in the conspiracy and they had befriended him, sold him drugs as a customer and used his accommodation.

Recently James Humphries, 23, of Liverpool, was sentenced to eight years and three months for his role in the supply of Class A drugs. Several other people are yet to be sentenced.

Humphries was arrested during a West Mercia police investigation into a 'turf war' between rival Merseyside drugs gangs in Shropshire during which 16-year-old Michael Warham was fatally stabbed.

In 2017, Humphries’ cousin, 21-year-old Declan Graves, was convicted of murder after a retrial and was jailed for a minimum of 20 years.