'Relieved' cocaine courier caught with £700,000 worth of the drug on the motorway
A cocaine courier caught with 7kg of the drug on the motorway said he was "relieved" after getting mixed up with a criminal gang.
Lorry driver Bradley Hardy confessed taking ad hoc work after losing his employment, which included transporting criminal cash between addresses, Leeds Crown Court was told.
But this progressed to transporting drugs, and he feared for the safety of himself and his family if he rejected the work.
Prosecutor Carmel Pearson said 28-year-old Hardy was driving a van that was pulled over by police on the M62 at Pontefract on September 10, where a search revealed seven 1kg packages of cocaine.
They they were found to be of high purity, up to 93 per cent, with a street value between £509,000 and £700,000.
He was arrested and gave a no-comment interview.
He later admitted a charge of intending to supply Class A drugs.
A report by probation found Hardy, who has no previous convictions, had a "high degree of naivety" after agreeing to transport money initially, then drugs.
He was paid £250 each time and had only been involved for three weeks.
He told the probation officer of his relief to have been caught, because he felt he could not turn down the work because of the potential for serious repercussions.
Mitigating, Rupert Doswell said Hardy had worked long hours as a lorry driver through the pandemic but had a disagreement with his employers and found himself unemployed.
Hardy, of Barrow Road, New Holland, North Lincolnshire, was then offered the cash-in-hand work.
He said: "He was a victim and exploited by those higher up. He had no prior knowledge of the value of those drugs.
"He has a genuine level of remorse for what he has done."
The judge, Recorder Jeremy Hill-Baker jailed him for four years' jail.
He said: "You agreed to make deliveries of what you believed to be cash, knowing that it was something dishonest and criminal.
"You found yourself trapped in a position where you felt you had no option.
"You were acting as a courier and you were naive."