Former Great Britain gymnast from Batley jailed for more than three years for dealing heroin and crack cocaine

A former British team gymnast has been jailed for peddling heroin and crack cocaine in York.
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Jacob Dobson, 22, from Batley, booked a room at a Travelodge hotel in York which he used as a drug base in the city centre, York Crown Court heard.

Dobson, who used to represent Great Britain in gymnastics, arrived in the city intent on making a small fortune from his illicit enterprise, but his stay was cut short when police busted his business.

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Prosecutor Kelly Clarke said that police, acting on a tip-off, turned up at the hotel on October 5 last year when they first arrested Dobson’s drug runner Lewis Benson as he entered the lobby.

York Crown CourtYork Crown Court
York Crown Court

Benson, who had checked into the hotel with Dobson a few hours earlier, told officers he was a “not a drug supplier, but a user”, added Ms Clarke.

In fact, Benson, 20, from Dewsbury, had been busy dealing heroin, crack and cocaine to addicts in the city’s parks, albeit under the direction of Dobson, a “more sophisticated” criminal who was higher up the supply chain.

This became evident when police found £290 cash and “multiple” drug packets on Benson, who used a basic “burner” phone to try to avoid detection.

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Inside the hotel room, police found digital weighing scales, a folding pocket knife, bags full of Class A drugs and a dealer list.

Jacob Dobson was jailed for three-and-a-half yearsJacob Dobson was jailed for three-and-a-half years
Jacob Dobson was jailed for three-and-a-half years

They arrested Benson and returned hours later after being tipped off that Dobson had returned to his hotel room.

They arrested Dobson at the scene and during another search of the room they found a rucksack containing what appeared to be business cards with Dobson’s name on and £2,595 cash, along with about £150 in coins.

They also found about half an ounce of heroin, 15 grammes of cocaine and a small amount of crack.

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During police questioning the following day, Dobson, who bragged to a drug contact that “I have people running for me”, claimed he was in York to visit his partner and, despite the evidence stacked against him, initially denied he had been dealing.

Both men were charged with three counts of possessing Class A drugs with intent to supply and one count of possessing criminal cash. Benson admitted the offences at the first opportunity and Dobson ultimately pleaded guilty to all matters.

They appeared for sentence on Friday, April 12, Dobson via video link after being remanded in custody.

Ms Clarke said that Dobson, of Windsor Road, Batley, had recruited others to the drug enterprise and could have expected to make “significant” profits.

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He had a bad criminal record comprising 30 previous offences. They included burglary, robbery, battery, criminal damage, carrying knives and drug possession.

Benson, of Princess Street, Dewsbury, had a limited criminal record which included possessing Class A drugs.

Barrister Jemima Stephenson, for Dobson, said the father-of-one had been a promising gymnast in his school days when he represented Great Britain.

However, his fall from grace started when he started using drugs at a young age during a turbulent childhood.

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Eleanor Fry, for Benson, said that her client was “vulnerable to exploitation” and was “fearful” of Dobson.

Benson, a former wagon loader and military chef, told a probation officer that he started dealing in August last year after being “coerced” by others, making “£300-to-£400 a week”. He had stayed in a hotel in York to avoid detection.

Judge Simon Hickey told the two men they had been convicted of supplying “the worst drugs…that judges have to deal with” because they led to “degradation and misery and death”.

Dobson was jailed for three-and-a-half years but will only serve half of that behind bars before being released on prison licence.

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Benson was given a 20-month suspended prison sentence because he had a lesser role in the drug racket, was much further down the chain and was dealing under direction from Dobson.

He was ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work and complete a 46-day rehabilitation programme.