TWO men from London have been given prison sentences after they admitted running a county lines network in Basingstoke.

Matthew Tesfamichael and Badru Kaddu operated the 'Slim' network, which illegally dealt Class A drugs in Basingstoke between October 2020 and May 2021.

The pair, both aged 28, would travel from the capital to Basingstoke for several days at a time, staying in hotel rooms and using bulk messaging to advertise heroin and crack cocaine for sale.

Kaddu was eventually caught with around £1,700 of drugs, including one lump of heroin worth almost £1,000 alone, and £815 in cash at Basingstoke's Crowne Plaza hotel in May.

He was given a suspended jail sentence after Recorder Malcolm Gibney found there was "a realistic prospect of rehabilitation".

Meanwhile, Tesfamichael was also arrested on the same day at the Barry House Hotel in London, with wraps of heroin. However, he was sent to jail immediately for three years and nine months, after the court heard he had committed these offences whilst on licence having been convicted of county lines drug dealing in Worcester.

Recorder Gibney said the pair played their part in "what is becoming a scourge of this area".

The Slim drug line was set up in the Waterloo area of London on October 6, 2020, according to prosecutor Tom Wright.

He told Winchester Crown Court on Friday: "Half an hour later, both men travelled down to Basingstoke, and within a few minutes, bulk text messages start to go out, advertising the available drugs, and the inevitable conclusion is both defendants were down there dealing on the 6th October."

He said there was a pattern of one or both of the men travelling from London to Basingstoke, and staying in hotels whilst using the handset to advertise drugs for sale.

"That is borne out by some Travelodge bookings made in Mr Kaddu’s name in April, a lot of overnight stays, and that bears out with the phone evidence, with the two men travelling down for a day or two," Mr Wright continued.

Tesfamichael, of Jeymer Avenue in Brent, received a 40-month prison sentence in early 2019 for drug dealing, of which he had been released on licence whilst these offences were committed.

His barrister, Barry McElduff, pleaded with the court to make his custodial sentence as short as possible, because of the impact of the pandemic on prisons.

He added: "He, perhaps ironically, became addicted to Class A drugs himself when he went to prison, and started using Class A drugs when serving that sentence.

"He was released from prison in May 2020 and went to reside with family members. Once the tagging part of the sentence expired, there was no place for him in the family home and he was effectively rendered homeless.

"He was sofa surfing, able to claim some universal credit, about £100 a week. He stayed in a cheap hotel when he could, funded his drug habit with and through his benefits."

However, Recorder Gibney said that Tesfamichael kept a roof over his own head "at the expense of victims of drug dealing".

"You fall to be sentenced for your part in what is becoming a scourge in this area, county lines drug dealing," he continued. "Over the period you were dealing, the telephone evidence demonstrates that this wasn’t a one off, this was a series of visits, using a usual phone line.

"You indicate you recognise just how selfish it was, but you wanted to keep a roof over your head. You did that at the expense of the victims of drug dealing."

He was jailed for three years and nine months.

However, the court was told the Kaddu had never been before the courts before, and only became involved in drugs "out of desperation".

His barrister, Aleksander Lloyd, said that he had lost his job as a sales consultant at Selfridges through no fault of his own: "This is something very much out of character.

"I would submit is that Mr Kaddu is at a crossroads. Whichever path he takes will be difficult, but the difficulty of a custodial sentence will be that much greater."

Sentencing Kaddu, of Orchardson Street, London, Recorder Gibney said: "You have never been before the courts before, and your history is that of someone who was reasonably well educated, content to hold down employment, and it was through no fault of your own you lost your job.

"References showed that when working, you were reliable and consistent, and you have support of family members who speak well of you."

He sentenced him to two years in prison, suspended for two years. Kaddu will also have to do 150 hours of unpaid work and take part in 15 rehabilitation activity days.