Former world boxing champ jailed for conspiracy to supply cocaine

Former world boxing champ jailed for conspiracy to supply cocaine

Former world champion boxer Herbie Hide has been jailed for conspiracy to supply cocaine after a court heard he fell for a sting operation set up by an investigative journalist known as the Fake Sheikh.

Hide arranged to supply the class A drug to Sun on Sunday reporter Mazher Mahmood after a series of meetings at a hotel near Norwich in January and February.

During a sentencing hearing at Cambridge Crown Court, defence lawyers questioned the use of "entrapment" tactics to target the 42-year-old.

Hide, of Long Lane, Bawburgh, near Norwich, admitted conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Judge Mark Lucraft QC sentenced the boxer, who has previous convictions including criminal damage, battery, threatening behaviour and carrying a knife, to 22 months in prison.

He said he had reduced the sentence, partly because of the "sting element".

Martin Budworth, mitigating for Hide, said Mr Mahmood and his assistant had pursued his client "relentlessly" despite his attempts to remove himself from the encounter.

A friend of Hide described him in a statement read to court as a "pubescent boy in a grown man's body".

"I hesitate to say this, but it is a case of Jekyll and Hyde - far from his public persona, he is a shy man and a vulnerable man and was ripe for the picking by experienced and professional men like Mr Mahmood," Mr Budworth said.

"I'm not here to criticise the paper for its conduct but this is not a case where The Sun has in any way unearthed a massive conspiracy.

"This was not a case of crime fighting or exposing a criminal, this was a case of selling newspapers.

"If anybody instigated this offence, it was Mr Mahmood and his assistant."

Hide's adoptive father, Alan Hide, told the court his son had learning difficulties.

He said: "Once he becomes your friend, he's your friend for life."

Prosecutor Chris Youell described how Mr Mahmood, dubbed the Fake Sheikh because of his technique of acting as a wealthy Arab, originally targeted Hide as part of an investigation into fight fixing.

"Mr Mahmood was effectively a customer being sold drugs for money," he said.

"It was an isolated incident which would not have happened had Mr Mahmood not enticed Mr Hide into doing something illegal."

He added: "The whole thing comes about because of the interest shown by journalists in Mr Hide, in particular because of his local and to some extent national celebrity because of his success in the sporting arena.

"At the time he was planning a comeback and was contacted by reporters from the Sun seeking to expose the supposed fact he was prepared to fix fights for money."

Hide met Mr Mahmood, who had adopted his sheikh persona, in a room at the Sprowston Manor Hotel in January.

Sound recorders and video cameras had been set up in the room, the court heard.

Mr Youell said: "During the conversation, Mr Mahmood began to talk about the lack of good quality cocaine in the Norwich area.

"Mr Hide volunteered relatively enthusiastically that cocaine was available and offered to get some from 'my man'."

Hide arranged for co-defendant Ben Sharman to obtain four grams of cocaine worth £400 which he then handed over to the reporter.

When tested, the drugs were found to be "absolute rubbish" containing 0.1498 grams of pure cocaine, the court heard.

Sharman (aged 22) of Howe Lane, Poringland, near Norwich, also admitted conspiracy to supply the Class A drug, two counts of offering to supply drugs and an unrelated burglary.

He was jailed for 20 months.

Hide held the World Boxing Organisation version of the heavyweight title twice.

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