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Recruitment consultant became drug dealer after losing business and home in Covid pandemic

A successful recruitment consultant who lost his business and home in the Covid pandemic turned to dealing Class A drugs to make ends meet and support this young children.

Robert Hicks was caught red-handed with a stash of cocaine deals and hundreds of pounds in cash when police swooped on the car he was sat in in a car park. When officers checked his phone they found a message which he had received just minutes earlier asking how long he was going to be because his contact had people waiting for their delivery.

The defendant’s advocate told Swansea Crown Court that Hicks had said to him that getting involved in the supply of drugs was the worst decision he had ever made.

Read more: How the shocking £100,000 robbery of a van at traffic lights led police to taking down an organized crime group which was trafficking huge quantities of cocaine into south Wales

Brian Simpson, prosecuting, said on the afternoon of March 23 this year police in an unmarked vehicle on Swansea’s Carmarthen Road began to follow a car which was seen to be swerving in and out of traffic as it headed towards the city centre. The officers followed the car onto High Street and then into the car park near the castle. The court heard that when the target vehicle stopped the officers moved in and identified themselves. Sat in the front passenger seat of the car was the 31-year-old defendant Hicks, and at his feet he was a bag containing wraps of cocaine and crack cocaine, weighing scales, and £410 in cash. In the back of the car was a jacket containing a crackpipe and more cocaine.

Hicks and the male driver of the car were arrested, and Hicks’ home was searched – in the property officers found 19g of cocaine in the kitchen, a satchel containing another 2.7g of cocaine, and half-a-kilo of caffeine and paracetamol powder which the court heard were popular substances for bulking out or “cutting” cocaine. The prosecutor said when police examined the defendant’s phone they found incoming and outgoing messages relating to supply drugs over the previous week, including one which had been received just minutes before the arrest asking how long Hicks was going to be as the contact had people waiting for him. The defendant gave a “no comment” interview. Read next: a heroin and cocaine dealer operated from a Swansea hotel room.

Robert James Hicks, of Cwm Clyd, Waunarlwydd, Swansea, had previously pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to supply when he appeared in the dock via videolink for sentencing. He has five previous convictions for eight offenses, the last for a public order matter in 2013.

Dan Griffiths, for Hicks, said a short custodial sentence the defendant served in 2013 had been a turning point for him, and following his release from prison he had moved the south east of England and found employment as a recruitment consultant. He said Hicks had apparently excelled in that career and swiftly been promoted through the ranks and given responsibility for a number of lucrative accounts before going on to launch his own company. But the advocate said the Covid pandemic decimated the business which eventually collapsed, and this resulted in debts which forced the defendant to sell his house to him and move back to Swansea. Mr Griffiths said his client found work as a carpenter with a construction company but then suffered a serious industrial injury when he fell from a room: Living in a “squalid flat”, suffering with depression, and being chased for the outstanding debts, the advocate said Hicks then turned to supplying drugs “to make ends meet and to provide for this two young children.”

He added that the father-of-two had made it clear to him in conference that getting involved in drug dealing had been “the worst decision of his life” while his client’s current partner was still trying to process what was happening, and was coming to terms with having to take their baby to Swansea prison to visit him.

Judge Geraint Walters told Hicks that while the collapse of his business during the pandemic had not been his fault, he had been foolish to engage in drug dealing as a way out of his situation and had jeopardized not only his own freedom but also the dignity of his partner and child who had been left to pick up the pieces. He said the message needed to be understood by those who peddle Class A drugs and inflict misery on addicts and communities that “their time will come” and they will face prison when caught.

With a one-quarter discount for his guilty plea Hicks was sentenced to three years in prison. He will serve up to half that period in custody before being released on license to serve the remainder in the community. The judge ordered that the money seized when Hicks was arrested be given to South Wales Police to help with their work tackling the drugs trade.

The court heard the driver of the car in which the defendant was traveling was released under investigation.

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