THE head of a drug-dealing group operating in Runcorn has been jailed.

A police investigation into drug dealing activity in and around the Victoria Road and Rock Park areas of the town between February 2016 and October 2018 uncovered regular text messages from Dean Potter advertising illegal drugs for sale.

The 21-year-old sent the messages to all the drug users stored in the mobile phones he used.

His associates Callum Pope, 19, and Louis Costes, 22, would then deliver the drugs to the customers for Potter.

Police investigating the group simultaneously raided their homes in the early hours of Tuesday, July 16 this year.

Quantities of class B drug cannabis were seized from the Runcorn homes of Potter and Pope.

The group were subsequently arrested and charged with drug dealing offences.

At Chester Crown Court on Wednesday August 14 Potter and Pope both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cannabis.

On Friday September 13 Costes admitted a charge of being concerned in the supply of the class B drug.

The trio returned to Chester Crown Court to be sentenced on Monday December 2.

Ringleader Potter, of The Decks, Runcorn, was jailed for two years and 99 days.

He was also given a five-year Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO).

Pope, of Lime Grove, Runcorn, was released after the judge ruled that he had spent enough time in custody, with him having been held on remand since July.

Costes, of Antons Close, Halewood, Liverpool, was given a community order – he has to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work and adhere to a rehabilitation activity requirement for up to 35 days.

Following sentencing, Detective Sergeant Rob McLoughlin, of Runcorn Local Policing Unit, said: "I would like to thank the officers involved in the lengthy and complex investigation into the drug dealing activities of Dean Potter, Callum Pope and Louis Costes for all their hard work in securing these convictions.

"Illegal drugs have a detrimental impact on our town, damaging both the lives of those who use them and the wider community who suffer from the crimes linked to them.

"Removing illegal drugs and those who supply them from our communities is a constant goal at Runcorn LPU and the rest of Cheshire Constabulary.

"I am delighted that Potter, who masterminded the criminal enterprise, is now behind bars and unable to blight our town with drug dealing activities.

"Pope and Costes sold drugs on the streets for him.

"All three of them are young men and I hope that now they have been sentenced for their crimes they reflect on the lives they have been leading and change their ways."

Potter and Pope will face a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing at a future date regarding items seized from their homes when they were raided.

DS McLoughlin added: "While this investigation has now concluded our fight against organised criminals continues and I urge anyone with any information about suspected drug related activity in their community to get in touch.

"You will be listened to and we will investigate the matter."

Suspected drug dealing activity can be reported by calling Cheshire Constabulary on 101. Alternatively information can be given anonymously, via Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111.