A CROOK who was coerced into drug dealing by a gang has been spared jail after turning to religion in prison.

Oliver Cox has admitted being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs in Southend.

The 21-year-old was arrested and charged following police raids across the town on June 10 last year.

The raids were part of Essex Police’s crackdown on County Lines drug dealing in Southend and London.

Cox admitted being involved in drug dealing from April to June that year.

He was sentenced at Basildon Crown Court on Wednesday, where the court head he had been “studying religion”.


Mitigating, Anthony Abell, said: “21 is very young.

“He has a very good chance to turn it around.

“He is a Christian, and he’s been studying that religion in prison.

“There is some good there in that way.”

Judge Samantha Cohen said: “You will be aware that Class A drugs are sold by organised criminal gangs and they bring with them violence and misery.

“They damage people’s lives.

“Another way the gangs work is by pressuring and coercing young people to become involved in their business and that’s what happened to you.

“You yourself were a victim of an organised crime gang who coerced you and pressured you to becoming involved in the drugs supply enterprise.”

The four police warrants where Cox was caught were executed by Southend’s Proactive Team and Operation Raptor South with assistance from the police’s Operational Support Group (OSG) who tackle serious crimes across the county.

Judge Cohen said: “You are a young man, 20 at the time and you had your 21st birthday in prison.

“Mitigation says you are a bright young man and have lost your way, and you have capacity to find it again, and a guaranteed apprenticeship.

“It’s been organised by your older brother, who is putting his neck on the line for you.

“The pre-sentenced report says you got involved in debt in the gang and you had to pay it off.

“What you should have done is speak to people, speak to the authorities and go to your parents, who plainly support and love you.”

Cox, of Clifton Avenue, Benfleet, received two years in prison suspended for two years and a two month curfew from 8pm to 5am.