A DRUG dealer has been jailed after he recruited two 14-year-old boys to sell heroin and crack in a nature reserve.

Michael Lynch had already been caught peddling drugs in Exeter twice during the original Covid lockdown when he arranged for the boys to deliver wraps to addicts in the park on the edge of Exeter.

One of the lads tried to hide up a tree but they were both arrested at the Barley Lane Nature Reserve near Nadderwater and found with drugs worth £420.

Both boys went on to run their own County Lines operations when they were just 15 and in the care of Devon County Council and formed part of a 16-strong gang that sold drugs as far afield as Dawlish, Exmouth and Barnstaple.

Lynch was the link man with large scale dealers in Liverpool and ran three lines which used the street names of Scouse Terry, Ginger Jay, and Boris, the latter being named after the then Prime Minister.

He worked with a courier called James McGlade, whose job was to bring drugs down from Liverpool and take cash back up the other way. Both men have been jailed for other, unrelated offences during the three years since their arrests.

Lynch, aged 38, of  Earp St, Liverpool and McGlade, aged 26, of  Lower Hall St, St Helens admitted conspiracy to supply class A drugs. Lynch was jailed for two years and ten months and McGlade for a year and eight months by Judge Anna Richardson at Exeter Crown Court.

One of the youths admitted the same charge and was made subject of a Youth Rehabilitation Order at a previous hearing. Charges against the other were dropped because he was convicted of the later, more serious drugs conspiracy. He also received a Youth Rehabilitation Order.

The Judge told Lynch and McGlade: ‘This conspiracy was of relatively short lived and operated three drug lines and sent hundreds rather than thousands of messages.

‘The drugs were sourced from Liverpool and brought to Exeter and McGlade, you carried out several runs to Liverpool to source drugs. You both expected a financial advantage and had operational functions in a chain.’

Mr Lee Bremridge, prosecuting, said the conspiracy operated from January 2020 until the arrests at the Barley Lane Nature Reserve on April 15. Lynch was arrested twice in Exeter in the meantime.

On one occasion he was caught with £291 takings and three phones, including the Ginger Jay graft line. The two 14-year-old were caught with £420 worth of drugs at the nature reserve.

Mr Brendan Carville, for Lynch, said he had been a hard working builder but had been forced to deal drugs to pay off his own debts after becoming addicted to cocaine. He has a young family who are struggling without him.

Mr Alaric Walmsley, for McGlade, said he now understands the damage which drugs do in society and is unlikely to reoffend when he is released.