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Police crack county lines drug gang: 15 people jailed for 90 years!

Police have smashed a huge county lines drug gang that conspired to supply class A substances across Carlisle and beyond – with 15 members being jailed for a total of nearly 90 years.

In another example of unseen policing – the work going on behind the scenes day-and-night to crack crime and keep Cumbria safe – officers have brought down a group which forged links between Merseyside and north Cumbria to hatch their criminal plot.

The case is one of the biggest county lines drug conspiracies stopped by the county constabulary – and saw a judge offer high praise for the officers who carried out the investigation.

Carlisle was targeted in a conspiracy that saw “text bomb” adverts for drugs sent out to addicts.

But the gang was smashed during Operation Nile, launched and carried out by the constabulary’s North Area Drug Squad.

Drug squad detectives were also helped and backed up by departments and agencies such as local and regional policing teams and the Crown Prosecution Service.

During sentencing, Judge Peter Davies said the officers who led and conducted the investigation should be commended.

He said the investigation led to the conspiracy being foiled and major figures apprehended.

It is the latest success for Cumbria Constabulary in tackling the menace of county lines drugs crime.

This is a term used to described gangs and organised networks involved in exporting drugs into other areas, using dedicated mobile phone lines.

The group cracked by Operation Nile were involved in a conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine between June and November last year.

They established a customer base by recruiting people from Carlisle.

They then sent out “text bombs” – group text messages sent to a large number of drug users offering the supply of drugs.

But complex investigations – part of the unseen policing going on day-and-night in the county - led to a string of arrests and the sentencing at Carlisle Crown Court today.

Those sentenced – and the sentences they received – were:

  • Roy Hickman, 35, of Unity Buildings, Liverpool, who was jailed for 14 years and four months.

  • Thomas Wright, 25, of Harefield Road, Liverpool, who was jailed for 10 years and six months.

  • Christopher Westwell, 25, of Liverpool, who was jailed for nine years and nine months.

  • Dylan Yates, 25, of Liverpool, who was jailed for 12 years and six months.

  • James Bailey, 19, of Liverpool, who was jailed for nine years.

  • Connor White, 23, of Eldon Drive, Carlisle, who was jailed for three years.

  • Joseph Graham, 40, of Borrowdale Gardens, Carlisle, who was jailed for three years.

  • Peter Bryson, 31, of Castlerigg Drive, Carlisle, who was jailed for three years.

  • Christopher Cooke, 39, of no fixed abode, who was jailed for five years and 219 days.

  • Leon Kenyon, 48, of Osbourne Avenue, Carlisle, who was jailed for 20 months.

  • Bradley Hickman, 35, of Ellesmere Way, Carlisle, who was jailed for two years.

  • Daniel Brennan, 32, of no fixed abode, who was jailed for four years and six months.

  • Michael Mandale, 51, of Greystoke, who was jailed for three years and nine months.

  • Heather Wills, 37, of Castlerigg Drive, Carlisle, who was jailed two years and four months.

They were sentenced for being part of a conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

They all admitted it apart from Brennan and Bailey, who were convicted after a trial.

Officers used a range of investigative tactics to uncover the criminal conspiracy.

The conduct of the conspirators and investigations surrounding phone lines and text messages formed the basis of the investigation.

It also involved intricate desktop detective work.

A number of raids across the 10-week operation saw officers seize a variety of drugs, bulking agents, a large number of mobile phones and cash.

Detective Inspector David Cooper welcomed the sentences – and warned it sent a stark message to those involved in the county lines drugs world.

He said: “This result represents the tireless work and dedication of Cumbria Constabulary’s North Area Drug Squad and the local Crown Prosecution Service in our efforts to disrupt county lines drugs supply.

“Operation Nile was an ambitious investigation led by Detective Sergeant David Howard and his team to bring down a Merseyside crime group that had embedded itself in Carlisle.

“Drug squad detectives were assisted by local and regional policing teams, Crown Prosecution Service and local authority partners in their endeavours.

“This group, headed by Liverpool criminal Roy Hickman, executed a classic county lines drug supply model to distribute crack, heroin and powder cocaine throughout north Cumbria between June and November 2018.”

DI Cooper added: “Bringing this many offenders to justice was challenging and complex but was matched by the determination, tenacity and skill of the detectives and prosecutors involved.

“The substantial custodial sentences handed out today are welcomed and should be seen as a warning and the inevitable consequence for anyone getting involved in county lines drug supply in north Cumbria.”

DI Cooper spelled out the consequences of this type of crime.

He added: “County lines is exploitative drug supply and is devastating to local communities, well beyond just those who are directly involved in the local drugs scene.

“We specifically appeal to drug users and their families: do not succumb to the temptation or pressure to work with or for outside crime groups in this manner.

“Instead, seek assistance from the authorities or ask a friend or family member to do so on your behalf.

“The North Area Drug Squad and our partners will be relentless in targeting and disrupting all those involved in exploitative drug supply and we appeal to the whole community to help us.”

Police would like to take this opportunity to encourage the public to report information on drug supply.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

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