The scale of a cocaine dealing plot which involved a Maryport man will be decided after a hearing before a Carlisle Crown court judge.

Prosecutors believe that Robert Alan McNichol, 43, and his co-defendant Elliot James Bramley, 24, were involved in up to 23 trips linked to a cocaine supply conspiracy.

Both men have been warned they face inevitable prison sentences. The pair have both admitted conspiring to supply the class A drug.

But there is still a dispute about the scale of the drug dealing operation they were involved in, Carlisle Crown Court heard.

The issue was due to be decided by a fact-finding hearing yesterday but this was adjourned because of a legal complication which cannot be reported.

As he adjourned the case, Recorder Eric Lamb said Bramley, from Harehills, Leeds, claimed he was acting as a courier in the drugs operation.

There was a “far more substantial dispute” about the role played in the operation by McNichol, of Greenwood Terrace, Maryport, said the judge.

The prosecution believe his offending involved more than five kilos of cocaine and that he played a “leading role” in the conspiracy.

The defence, on the other hand, maintained his involvement related to less than 3.5 kilos of the drug and that his role was far less important that the prosecution allege.

Apologising to the defendants for the adjournment of the fact-finding exercise, Recorder Lamb said that the court needed more information before going ahead with the hearing.

At an earlier hearing, prosecutor Alaric Walmsley said police believed the defendants were involved in trafficking at least five kilos of cocaine – worth tens of thousands of pounds – as they made between 20 and 23 trips.

McNichol’s barrister Kim Whittlestone said that he had denied playing a leading role in the conspiracy, despite being caught with a kilo of the Class A drug. He insisted he was acting under direction from other people.

Jamie Baxter, for Bramley, said his client suggested some of the trips the men made were for the purpose of cash collection rather than drug delivery.

The case was relisted for a hearing on June 7. Bramley was granted bail and McNichol was remanded in custody.