Page last updated at 15:02 GMT, Friday, 12 December 2008

Nightclub drugs pair lose appeal

Manoucehr Bahmanzadeh and Tom Patrick Costelloe
The pair allowed "overt and blatant" drug dealing in their club

Two men jailed for permitting the "rampant" sale of ecstasy at a Devon nightclub have lost their appeal.

Manoucehr Bahmanzadeh and Tom Patrick Costelloe, owner and manager of the Dance Academy in Plymouth, claimed their trial in July was unfair.

They said undercover police officers should not have been allowed to testify anonymously from behind a screen.

But the Court of Appeal in London ruled their identity had rightly been kept secret for the officers' protection.

'Overt' drug dealing

Bahmanzadeh, 52, and Costelloe, 37, were convicted of allowing the supply of Class A drugs at the Union Street club after standing trial at Plymouth Crown Court in July.

Bahmanzadeh, who lived above the club, was jailed for nine years for permitting the "rampant and blatant" supply of drugs at the venue. Costelloe, from Honiton, received a five-year term.

Undercover police officers who monitored the club between December 2005 and May 2006 gave evidence from behind screens in court that drug dealing was "overt and blatant".

In May 2006, 140 riot police stormed the club and 16 drug dealers were later jailed.

Bahmanzadeh and Costelloe said anonymous evidence from police was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and appealed against their conviction.

But the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, said the identities of the anonymous police witnesses were "irrelevant" to the issues the jury had to decide.

Keeping their identities a secret, the judge added, had been "necessary to prevent real harm to the public interest" and to protect the police witnesses' personal safety.

The trial judge's decision to allow the witnesses to testify anonymously was "sound and realistic" and neither Bahmanzadeh and Costelloe had suffered any prejudice, Lord Judge concluded.

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