Saturday, 28 November 2015

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Drugs conspiracy gang jailed for total of almost 50 years

A gang that flooded Cumbria’s streets with cocaine has been jailed for almost 50 years.

The eight men and one woman from across the county were caught after a police sting into the supply of cocaine and other drugs in a conspiracy that spanned two and a half years.

It was brought crashing down by a squad of detectives who snared the ring and put an end to the dealing in two undercover operations named Silkworm and Adder.

The ringleader, Luke Babester, 39, was described as “a jack of all trades ” and “at the top of the hierarchy” and was sentenced to 12 years at Carlisle Crown Court for conspiracy to supply cocaine, money laundering and converting money into counterfeit coins.

Judge Paul Batty QC handed out sentences to nine defendants totalling 49 years and four months.

Dearham’s Steven Smith, 32, the man “in charge” of the operation in west Cumbria was jailed for 10 and a half years for conspiring with others to supply cocaine and methcathinone, also known as mephedrone or Miaow Miaow.

Smith, who ran the Sunkissed Tanning Salon in Maryport and Smith’s Gym in Cockermouth, obtained bulked up cocaine from Babester for onward distribution.

Judge Batty said Smith’s business were “a convenient shield” for his criminal activity. His counsel said he was a “hard-working family man”.

Carlisle’s Roger Fox, 38, of Greta Avenue, was jailed for nine years and nine months for conspiring with others to supply cocaine, between February 14, 2012 and April 7, 2012. He committed the offences while on licence for a previous drug conviction.

In 2008, he was jailed for eight years for running a lucrative cocaine operation.

The court was told he used to meet Babester in The Beehive pub at Eamont Bridge, near Penrith, to exchange cash and drugs.

When he was arrested he had £15,400 cash on him.

After Fox and Babester, from Kendal, were arrested, the supply of cocaine was “cut off” so Steven Smith turned to Michael Britland and Clint Tinsley from St Helens for the provision of cocaine.

Britland and Tinsley made trips to Smith’s Towncroft home on what police say were drug runs.

Judge Batty said: “The precise amount is quite impossible to quantify. 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.

“All of you were involved in the supply of controlled drugs here in Cumbria. The drugs were cocaine and mephedrone.

“The drugs had come into the county from different sources – certainly from Liverpool and from the Leicester area and other established trade routes.

“Cocaine of high purity was being bashed and bulked up and, with the assistance of cutting agents, increased in value. It was put out on the streets with a 10 per cent purity.”

Also sentenced was Steven Smith’s brother, Martin Smith, 31, of Grange Avenue, Flimby. He was jailed for two years and five months and had pleaded guilty to conspiring to supply methcathinone or its derivatives, between March 1 and May 22 2012.

At Martin Smith’s home police found a bundle of cash – £1,260 inside a building society book and cash, £3,540, in a tin. He admitted that what he had done was a “one-off”. He was said to be “extremely remorseful”.

Grant Robertson, 28, of Barepot, Workington, was jailed for three years. He had pleaded guilty to the same charge. He also admitted possessing 212 counterfeit £1 coins.

Mum-of-six Angela Clark, 52, of Robert Owen Avenue, Cleator Moor, was jailed for three years. She was convicted of conspiring with others to supply methcathinone between March 1 and May 22 last year and possessing a quantity of amphetamine.

She was said to have found her first days in custody “extremely difficult and distressing.”

Judge Batty said Clark played a “significant role” and that the evidence against her was “utterly overwhelming”.

Andrew Robinson, 33, of Holly Bank, Whitehaven, pleaded guilty to possessing mephedrone.

He was given a nine month prison sentence suspended for two years for possessing the drug mephedrone.

Greg Hoare, in mitigation, said: “He became, in dire circumstances, addicted to mephedrone.

“His relationship got into difficulty and soured and he was left on the brink of bankruptcy. The worry over his debts and the involvement in this case has led him to have a very difficult year. His personal life is now back on track. He was the least involved of all the defendants.”

Judge Batty told Robinson: “I hope this case is a wake up call for you.

“You know because you have experienced the terrible effects that mephedrone has on those who become addicted and you did.

“You were effectively acting as a courier on the one occasion. I accept that yours is a lesser role, You are trying now to put your life in order.

He imposed a nine-month prison sentence suspended for two years and gave Robinson a 12-month supervision order. He must also be the subject of an electronically monitored curfew from 7pm to 6am.

Mechanic Stephen Neill, 34, of Kendal, was jailed for five years and three months. He pleaded guilty to conspiring with others unknown to supply cocaine, between February 14 and April 7 2012.

Michael Britland, 30, of St Helens, was jailed for three years and four months for conspiring to supply cocaine.

Tinsley will be sentenced on March 22.

Detective Inspector Mike Brown, of Cumbria police, said the sentences were the result of “a great deal of hard, painstaking work”.

“Although crime is low in Cumbria, we are not naive and, as this case demonstrates, we know that there are some people who set their sights on being “kingpins” in the drugs trade,” he said.

“Some, like Babester, will go to great lengths to cover up the large profits they make from criminal activity by setting up and laundering money through what look like legitimate businesses. He was drawing vast amounts of cash from these businesses to support things like his £1,500 per month rental on a luxury property and thousands of pounds on jewellery and nights away.”

Judge Batty hit out at the “appalling detrimental effect” the drug is having on socially deprived areas of west Cumbria.


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