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Monday, 20 October 2014

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Cumbrian drug plot gang’s bid to cut jail terms fails

Four criminals whose gang tried to flood the streets of Cumbria with cocaine have failed to overturn their lengthy jail sentences.

Roger Fox photo
Roger Fox

The conspirators – members of a nine-strong gang with a presence in east and west Cumbria – were brought to justice last year after their plot was smashed by two undercover police stings.

The gang was jailed for a total of 49 years by Carlisle Crown Court’s most senior Judge Paul Batty QC.

Top judges at the Court of Appeal in London have now dismissed attempts by four of the defendants to have their sentences reduced.

Roger Fox, 39, of Greta Avenue, Carlisle, was jailed for nine years and nine months for conspiring to supply cocaine during 2012.

Steven John Smith, 32, from Dearham, near Maryport, who ran the gang’s drugs supply operation in west Cumbria, was convicted of conspiring to supply cocaine and mephedrone. He was jailed for 10½ years.

Mum-of-six Angela Clark, 52, of Robert Owen Avenue, Cleator Moor, convicted of conspiring to supply mephedrone and possessing amphetamine, was jailed for three years.

The gang’s ringleader, Luke Babester, 39, from Kendal, was jailed for 12 years after being convicted of conspiring to supply cocaine, money laundering, and converting money into counterfeit coins.

Lord Justice McCombe, sitting with two other seniior judges, ruled that none of the appeals had merit.

The judges also said that the time the four had spent waiting for the cases to reach an appeal hearing should not count towards their sentences, effectively lengthening the time each will spend behind bars for up to 28 days.

As he passed sentence last year, Judge Batty highlighted the continuing scourge of hard drugs in west Cumbria.

He told the defendants: “What is clear is that each of you was in this loathsome trade for profit and some of you made significant profits trading, as you all did, on human misery.

“I have heard evidence... of the particular problems of cocaine in west Cumbria and the corrosive effect it has had on the lives of those who have themselves become addicts and in addition and extremely worrying the effects that mephedrone also is having in west Cumbria.”

The Appeal Court judges commented on each of the four defendants in turn.

Of Fox, the judges said Judge Batty’s conclusions that he was selling on a commercial scale and had a leading role were not open to any serious challenge.

Fox was on licence at the time for a serious previous drugs offence when he rang a lucrative cocaine operation.

The court heard that Fox regularly met Babester at a pub in the Penrith area to exchange cash and drugs.

Judge Batty, the Appeal judges said, was also right to not give a full discount to Smith for his guilty plea because it was not offered at the first opportunity.

Smith ran two businesses – The Sun Kissed Tanning Salon in Maryport, and Smith’s Gym in Cockermouth – which he used to mask the drugs profits he was making.

Nor were the judges impressed by the appeal of Clark, saying that Judge Battty was right to conclude that she played a significant role in the drugs plot.

Of Babester, the judges said his sentence was also appropriate because Judge Batty was entitled to conclude that the amount of drugs involved was more than five kilos, while he admitted two conspiracies and money laundering.

In conclusion, the judges said that all four appeals were “wholly unmeritorious” and should never have been lodged.

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