Former world champion boxer Herbie Hide has been jailed for selling cocaine after a court heard he fell for a sting operation set up by an investigative journalist known as the Fake Sheikh.
Hide arranged to supply the class A drug to Sun on Sunday reporter Mazher Mahmood after a series of meetings at a hotel near Norwich in January and February.
During a sentencing hearing at Cambridge Crown Court, defence lawyers questioned the use of “entrapment” tactics to target the 42-year-old.
Hide, of Bawburgh, near Norwich, admitted conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
Judge Mark Lucraft QC sentenced the boxer, who has previous convictions including criminal damage, battery, threatening behaviour and carrying a knife, to 22 months in prison.
He said he had reduced the sentence, partly because of the “sting element”.
Martin Budworth, mitigating, said Mr Mahmood and his assistant had pursued his client “relentlessly” despite his attempts to remove himself from the encounter.
A friend of Hide described him in a statement read to court as a “pubescent boy in a grown man’s body”.
“I hesitate to say this, but it is a case of Jekyll and Hyde – far from his public persona, he is a shy man and a vulnerable man and was ripe for the picking by experienced and professional men like Mr Mahmood,” Mr Budworth said.
Hide’s adoptive father, Alan Hide, told the court his son had learning difficulties.
He said: “Once he becomes your friend, he’s your friend for life.”
Prosecutor Chris Youell described how Mr Mahmood, dubbed the Fake Sheikh because of his technique of acting as a wealthy Arab, originally targeted Hide as part of an investigation into fight fixing. “It was an isolated incident which would not have happened had Mr Mahmood not enticed Mr Hide into doing something illegal,” he said.
Hide met Mr Mahmood at the Sprowston Manor Hotel in January.
Mr Youell said: “During the conversation, Mr Mahmood began to talk about the lack of good quality cocaine in the Norwich area.”
Hide arranged for co-defendant Ben Sharman to obtain four grams of cocaine worth £400 which he then handed over to the reporter.
Sharman, 22, of Poringland, near Norwich, also admitted conspiracy to supply the Class A drug, two counts of offering to supply drugs and an unrelated burglary. He was jailed for 20 months.