County lines drugs gang jailed for almost 90 years
Fifteen people have been handed jail terms totalling almost 90 years for involvement in a large scale class A drugs supply plot which saw a Merseyside crime gang target Cumbrian addicts.
Carlisle Crown Court heard how mobile phones were used to bombard scores of would-be customers with almost 10,000 "text bombs" advertising heroin and crack cocaine for sale.
Cumbria police officers who smashed the plot uncovered a "mammoth" volume of communication between a group of conspirators. In all, 16 men and women - 11 with Cumbria addresses - played various roles during a period of more than five months last year.
"The key organiser and key players came from the Liverpool area," prosecutor Tim Evans said during a three-day sentencing hearing which concluded on 5 June.
"Once the drugs were in Cumbria they were distributed by Liverpool gang members assisted by a number of local Cumbrian residents."
Those householders, he said, directly supplied drugs on behalf of the gang; stored them and allowed their addresses - some occupied by children - to be used as a drug-dealing safe house bases; or helped in other ways, such as handing over crucial contacts lists for addicts or buying mobile phone top-ups.
Speaking of the "county lines"-type enterprise, Mr Evans said it also involved a process known as "cuckooing" - those from outside the county coming into Carlisle and setting up temporary "nests" from which to establish a drug-dealing network.
Thirteen defendants - including 35-year-old plot general Roy Hickman, of Churchdown Road, Liverpool - later admitted conspiracy to supply class A drugs. A further three were found guilty by jurors following a trial.
Lawyers who represented the conspirators and gave mitigation during this week's court hearing spoke of how lives had been left in "ruins" as a result of their illicit involvement.
"The impact of this conspiracy has been far reaching," said Judge Peter Davies as he passed sentence. He spoke of "community exploitation" which had caused "devastation, despair and a huge financial and social cost this county cannot afford".
Roy Hickman, 35, of Churchdown Road, Liverpool; 14 years, five months.
Thomas Wright, 25, of Harefield Road, Liverpool; 10-and-a-half years.
Christopher Westwell, 25, of Round Hey, Knowsley; nine years, nine months.
Dylan Yates, 25, of Boode Croft, Liverpool; 12-and-a-half years.
James Bailey, 20, of Birkrig, Skelmersdale; nine years.
Michael Mandale, 51, of Greystoke, near Penrith; three years, nine months.
Daniel Brennan, 32, previously of Woodside North, Carlisle; four-and-a-half years.
Christopher Cooke, 39, of no fixed address; five years, 219 days.
Connor White, 23, of Eldon Drive, Carlisle; three years.
Joseph Graham, 40, of Borrowdale Gardens, Carlisle; three years.
Peter Bryson, 31, of Castlerigg Drive, Carlisle; three years.
Heather Wills, 36, of Castlerigg Drive, Carlisle; two years, four months.
Storme Abrahams, 32, of Mill Street, Longtown; two years.
Bradley Hickman, 35, of Ellesmere Way, Carlisle; two years.
Leon Kenyon, 48, of Osborne Avenue, Carlisle; one year, eight months.