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Cell plot claim.

Byline: Andy Passant

The matriarch of a notorious Teesside drugs dynasty serving eight years in prison could be locked up for even longer, a court heard.

The Crown Prosecution Service claims Maureen McPartland plotted from prison to hive off more than pounds 80,000 into an offshore bank account.

Prosecutors want an additional jail term imposed for contempt of court.

McPartland, 44, of Roscoe Street, Middlesbrough, was jailed for ten years at Teesside Crown Court last December.

She had pleaded guilty to conspiring to supply heroin and having cannabis resin with intent.

The term was cut to eight years earlier this year by the Court of Appeal, which heard she had been named "the Big Boss" in the drugs ring.

McPartland said she had acted under the "malign influence" of her husband John who has since died.

She claimed she was pressured into taking over the drugs operation when her husband was jailed for 12 years for heroin dealing in 1998.

She was also made the subject of a pounds 179,870 confiscation order and all her realisable assets were effectively frozen.

Yesterday CPS lawyers argued at London's High Court that McPartland had, in breach of the court order, plotted from prison to sell a house she owned in Melbourne Close, Marton, Middlesbrough.

Mr Justice Gibbs said the sale was said to have been carried through by someone else "acting on her behalf or with her encouragement".

It was the CPS case that the sale proceeds - more than pounds 80,000 - had been hived off into a Gibraltar bank account and onwards from there, "by inference, to put the money beyond the reach of the authorities".

The judge said that, if the allegations were proved, they would amount to a "very serious" contempt of court.

Adjourning the case for six weeks, the judge said it would be wrong to make any definite findings against her in her absence. Although McPartland had been given notice of yesterday's proceedings - and waived her right to attend court - the judge said "justice required" that she be given a last opportunity to come to court to defend herself.

He said it was also "highly desirable" that she be represented by a barrister at the next court hearing, which is likely to be in late August.

Members of the McPartland heroin dealing empire were jailed for a total of more than 20 years last December.

The family had built up a vice-like grip on the deadly trade from their home in Weatherhead Avenue, Whinney Banks.

John McPartland snr even masterminded his empire from behind bars while serving a lengthy prison sentence for drug dealing.

He later died in Durham's Frankland jail from a suspected heart attack.
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jul 17, 2003
Words:450
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