Hertfordshire’s courts were certainly busy in 2023, and here are eight criminals from Stevenage, Hitchin and Letchworth who were put behind bars last year.

1. Mukhtar Lail and Trefor Jones

Mukhtar Lail and Trefor Jones were jailed in September for a plotting to murder a vulnerable woman in Hitchin.

Lail, of Meadowsweet Way in Stotfold, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of eight years, after being found guilty of conspiracy to murder and perverting the course of justice.

Jones, of Sedgley Close in Southsea, was given an eight-year sentence after being found guilty of conspiracy to murder.

The Comet: Mukhtar Lail and Trefor Jones.Mukhtar Lail and Trefor Jones. (Image: Hertfordshire Constabulary)

Lail, 53, offered Trefor Jones, 38, £15,000 to murder the woman by injecting her with heroin while he stayed at her home in January 2022.

Lail also gave Jones detailed instructions on how to render the victim unconscious should she resist.

The woman was asleep on her sofa when she was woken by her dog howling and found Jones standing over her.

After being told about the incident, a family member of the victim raised the alarm to Herts police and an investigation was launched.

A third man, Bobby Dhunna, 39, formerly of Clarion Close in Offley, was also sentenced to two years and four months imprisonment in connection with the incident, having pleaded guilty to witness intimidation, perverting the course of justice and possession of cannabis during a separate court appearance.

2. Emrah Demirci

Former Stevenage shopkeeper Emrah Demirci was jailed in April for four years after raping a teenager at a hotel.

The 43-year-old, of Windmill Road, Cheshunt, previously ran The Oval Wine, where he met his victim, a 18-year-old woman, back in 2019. He would then rape her at a hotel in Hertfordshire.

The Comet: Emrah Demirci.Emrah Demirci. (Image: Herts police)

Detective Constable Vicky Draper, of the Op HALO team, said: "Demirci took advantage of a vulnerable teenager for his own gain and will now have to face the consequences for his actions.

"I’d like to highlight the victim’s courage throughout the process and hope this result will enable her to have closure, so she can move forward with her life."

3. Tegan Holden and Reece Haynes

Tegan Holden and Reece Haynes were sentenced to multiple years behind bars back in July for class A drug offences.

Haynes, of Sunnyside Road in Hitchin, was sentenced to a total of seven years in prison having also been arrested for drugs offences in June 2022.

The Comet: Tegan Holden and Reece Haynes.Tegan Holden and Reece Haynes. (Image: Hertfordshire Constabulary)

Holden, of Brighton Way in Stevenage, was sentenced to two years and three months imprisonment for two offences, with the sentences to be served concurrently.

They pair were arrested in Welwyn Garden City on January 5, with Detective Inspector Bianca Broadbent, from the Welwyn Hatfield Local Crime Unit, saying: "We work hard to tackle the local drugs supply and so I am glad that Haynes and Holden are now behind bars."

4. Dean Pitcher

Stevenage paedophile Dean Pitcher was jailed for six years in December after pleading guilty to committing sexual offences against a child.

The 38-year-old, of Chapman Road, was arrested in April 2022 after Herts police received reports of alleged offences.

The Comet: Dean Pitcher.Dean Pitcher. (Image: Hertfordshire Constabulary)

He was subsequently charged with: ten counts of engaging in penetrative sexual activity with aged 13 to 15; possessing indecent photographs of a child; possessing a controlled class A drug (cocaine); and driving a vehicle while unfit due to drugs.

The offences were committed over a period of 13 months, and relate to one victim.

5. Larry Ansell

County lines drug dealer Larry Ansell, who sold heroin and cocaine in Stevenage, was jailed for four-and-a-half years in July.

The 20-year-old, of West Lane, Pirton, was arrested in June 2021, after being found with 80 wraps of heroin and crack cocaine hidden inside a tobacco pouch in his pants during a stop and search.

While on bail for this offence, in October last year, mobile phone data revealed links to a county lines drug network operating in Stevenage. It is believed he was sending up to 80 messages a day to drug users in the area.

Officers then launched an operation to tackle his illegal activities and conducted a warrant at a private address in Drury Lane.

The Comet: Larry Ansell.Larry Ansell. (Image: Herts police)

Ansell was inside the property with the county line phone, a stash of crack cocaine and heroin with an estimated value of more than £2,000, and a 'Rambo' style knife.

After pleading not guilty at an early court hearing, and claiming he was a victim of modern slavery, he was subsequently remanded to prison and then bailed to an address outside Hertfordshire with a strict curfew.

Before a trial could take place though, further investigations revealed he had broken his bail conditions, returning to Stevenage to run a new county lines drug dealing operation.

As officers closed in to arrest him at an address in Canterbury Way, he attempted to flee, as well as trying to conceal evidence by throwing more than 100 wraps of class A drugs out of the window.

Officers had surrounded the building, preventing his escape, and he was arrested, with cash and a large hunting knife seized from the address.

6. Ashley Banks

Letchworth's Ashley Banks, who beat and attempted to strangle a woman, was jailed for eight years back in March.

The 35-year-old, of no fixed abode, sexually assaulted a woman multiple times, before punching her repeatedly in the face and putting his arms around her throat in the stairwell of an address in Letchworth in July 2022.

The Comet: Ashley Banks.Ashley Banks. (Image: Herts police)

He was given eight years imprisonment for sexual assault by penetration. He was also given six years for another sexual assault by penetration and 12 months for non-fatal strangulation, to run concurrently, as well as 14 months each for two counts of sexual assault by touching.

In addition, he was given six months for racially aggravated public order, four months for ABH, two months for assault by beating and a month for assaulting an emergency worker, all to run concurrently.

"Banks is a danger to women," said Investigator Lauren Shelley, who led the case.

"The victim was subjected to brutal sexual assaults. This was a sustained attack on a vulnerable woman, and it was sheer luck that the victim didn’t sustain any serious injuries – strangulation, even momentarily, is extremely perilous."

7. Reggie Barton

Hitchin county lines drug dealer Reggie Barton was jailed for three years in January.

The 18-year-old, of Kingswood Avenue in Hitchin, was sentenced for possession with intent to supply class A drugs, and possession of criminal property.

The Comet: Reggie Barton.Reggie Barton. (Image: Hertfordshire Constabulary)

The sentencing followed an investigation by Hertfordshire police's Local Crime Unit (LCU), during which Barton was arrested and a substantial amount of cocaine and cash seized from an address in the town.

Detective Constable Jamie Nye, from the North Herts LCU, said: "The offender was involved in a drug line which supplied drugs into the North Herts area, distributing significant amounts of drugs.

"This will have a significant impact on drugs use and associated crime in the county. It also sends a clear message that drug dealing will not go unpunished and anyone involved will be caught and jailed."

8. Jack Clark

Stevenage teenager Jack Clark was jailed for two years and three months back in June after seriously injuring six people in a crash in Hitchin.

The 19-year-old, from Blackdown Close, pleaded guilty to four counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, and was also disqualified from driving for four years.

He was driving a silver Ford Fiesta with six other people in the vehicle when he crashed on Park Street at 11.36pm on December 3, 2021.

The Comet: Jack Clark crashed in Park Street.Jack Clark crashed in Park Street. (Image: Herts police)

He had only had the vehicle for 17 days and passed his test less than a month prior.

The court heard Clark was driving "erratically", swerving in and out of lanes and driving at speed, when he lost control and mounted a kerb, causing his vehicle to spin and collide with a house.

The ambulance service responded and declared a major incident, with all the occupants of the car suffering serious injuries.

One of the passengers was placed in an induced coma after suffering life-changing injuries including organ damage, bleeds to the brain and a collapsed lung.

Clark was arrested at the scene and charged following an extensive investigation.