A PROMISING rugby league player whose career was ended by injury has been jailed for nine years for drug dealing.
Craig Vines was exposed as operating a dealer line in the Wakefield area after an undercover police officer was supplied through it on a number of occasions.
Michael Greenhalgh, representing Vines, told Leeds Crown Court yesterday that he had left school early to pursue his dream to be a professional rugby league player and achieved that when he signed a contract in his mid-teens.
He played for Leeds Rhino juniors and represented his country at teenage level but his promising career was ended because of significant injuries he received in two road accidents.
Vines, 27 of Potter Avenue, Lupset, Wakefield admitted conspiracy to supply crack cocaine. Mark Bateman, 27 of Gervase Road, Horbury, Wakefield, who admitted the same offence and was described as his lieutenant, was jailed for six years.
Judge Geoffrey Marson QC told Vines he was satisfied he was “the instigator of a very significant and commercial network of drug dealers in Wakefield, during the course of which at least 13 runners were employed by you delivering drugs.”
Some of those runners were under 18 and some of the deals were in the presence of others including children. “It was done for nothing other than commercial gain and greed, not considering the misery and degradation the supply of drugs can cause to others.
“The courts have to send a message that professional dealing on this scale will not be tolerated.”
Richard Clews, prosecuting, said Bateman manned the dealer line on occasions as well as delivering. The judge heard he did it to fund a cannabis habit.
Inspector Richard Close said afterwards the sentences reflected the success of Operation Grassland which had seen 200 arrests since last September.