A COUNTY Lines dealer who named his drug line after celebrity Peter Andre has been jailed for seven years.

Dean Hooson ran two lines which were part of a network which brought more than five kilograms of heroin or crack from Liverpool and sold it on the streets of Devon.

He worked with children in council care who were able to carry on running their operations despite being under supposedly intensive supervision.

The wider conspiracy ran 35 lines which supplies all of South, East and Mid Devon, including towns like Exmouth and Dawlish, but Hooson’s operated mainly in Cullompton and surrounding towns.

He also worked with the children who were in care, picking up one 15-year-old from a care placement so he could carry on drug dealing.

Hooson was caught by a police surveillance operation which showed he was in telephone contact with runners who were sent to deliver drugs on bikes or electric scooters at venues including playing fields on the edge of the town.

He sent out a total of 97 messages offering drugs on two lines which were named Peter Andre and Jerry Curry. Addicts rang in orders which he arranged to be delivered by “runners” who were often teenaged boys.

Hooson, aged 30, of Duke Street, Cullompton, denied conspiracy to supply heroin and crack but was found guilty by a jury at Exeter Crown Court in November.

His sentence was delayed by the sudden death of Judge Timothy Rose, who oversaw his trial but he has now been jailed for seven years by Judge Anna Richardson.

She told him: “You were part of widespread, sustained and serious drug dealing which involved 35 dealer lines, two of which were linked to you, and which were changed regularly to make the police’s task more difficult.

“Young people were often involved in the physical act of supplying the drugs. So far as your involvement, you were based in Cullompton with the Jerry Curry and Peter Andre lines and sent 97 messages.

“I accept there is no evidence of you sourcing drugs from Liverpool, you did travel to Bristol and that may have been drug related. You helped to supply in Exeter and Mid Devon.

“You were explicitly linked to those supplying drugs in Exeter and North Devon so you were not running solely out of Cullompton. You had your own substance abuse issues as a result of a difficult childhood.

“As a result of your offending, countless lives will have been ruined.”

Mr Ray Tully, KC, said Hooson was part of a much wider conspiracy involving eight adult and eight juvenile defendants, all but two of whom have already been sentenced.

It involved the sale of huge amounts of heroin and crack which was sent down to Devon from Liverpool and distributed by local dealers, including children in care.

Mr Simon Burns, defending, said Hooson had mental health issues arising out of a difficult childhood which had led him into the world of drugs.

He said Hooson had not been a leader within the conspiracy and had not recruited or exploited any of the youths who were involved in it.

Police released images of some of the exhibits seized in the investigation, codenamed Operation Harbinger, last week.

Hooson’s sentence brings the total received by the gang so far to just under 30 years.

The sentences passed on the other offenders are: James O’Reilly, aged 29, of Old Quarry Drive, Exminster, was jailed for 12 years; Robert Hadwin, aged 31, of Ellery Drive, Liverpool, for six years and nine months; Liam Rhodes, aged 21, originally from the Tiverton area, for 26 months and Alfie Smith, aged 21, from Exeter for 20 months.

Colby Seatherton-Hill, aged 19, from Tiverton area, was given an 18-month suspended sentence. Alice Shotter, aged 32, of Exwick Road, Exeter, and an 18-year-old man from Exeter were given 20-month suspended sentences. Four teenagers were given Youth Rehabilitation Orders and three received Youth Referral Orders.