Five jailed for county lines plot to bring class A drugs to Cumbria

27/01/22. Members of a drugs gang sentenced at Carlisle Crown Court today. Top row: Shaun Doyle, Jacob Hughes-O’Brien, Thomas Jameson. Bottom row: James Postlethwaite and Karen Pullin. Cumbria Constabulary mugshots.
The members of the drugs gang who were jailed today. Top row: Shaun Doyle, Jacob Hughes-O’Brien, Thomas Jameson. Bottom row: James Postlethwaite and Karen Pullin. Credit: Cumbria Constabulary

Five men and two women have been sentenced by a judge after police smashed a “county lines” plot to transport vast quantities of class A drugs by road and rail from Liverpool to west Cumbria.

Shaun Doyle, aged 27, was described by the prosecution at Carlisle Crown Court today as the “kingpin” of a conspiracy which ran for seven months and saw heroin and crack cocaine trafficked to the Workington area for sale to addicts.

During the criminal enterprise, between mid-July of 2019 and February the following year, Doyle controlled a “drug line” phone number from which “text flares” were sent to multiple users at a time, advertising illicit substances for sale.

Operating under Doyle in the chain of command were trusted lieutenant and right hand man Jacob Hughes-O’Brien, also aged 27; and dependable drug runner Thomas Jameson, 29. Hughes-O’Brien had been caught with an illegal stash potentially worth £40,000 by police who raided a house at Harrington, near Workington, in November of 2019.

Officers had mounted surveillance which showed he and Jameson arriving separately by train in Workington the day before. Jameson was smartly dressed in a blazer and tie, carrying a rucksack and laptop case and, said prosecutor Julian Goode, “to all intents and purposes he looked like the average professional commuter”. It was “unlikely” he would have been stopped and, had police not witnessed that he and Hughes-O’Brien were met by another suspect, “there is little doubt the plan would have worked”.

Acting as those street dealers were three West Cumbria residents — then partners James Postlethwaite, 46, and Karen Pullin, 37, both of Senhouse Street, Maryport; along with 38-year-old Paula Jackson, of Co-Operative Terrace, Flimby. A seventh defendant, 38-year-old Lee Kirkpatrick, was a tenant of the Harrington safe house used for storage and drug distribution.

Between 5kg and 8kg of illegal drugs could have been trafficked into the area during the plot, police concluded.

Doyle, of Reedale Road, along with Hughes-O’Brien, of Altfinch Close, and Jameson, of Towers Road, all Liverpool, admitted conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine Pullen and Postlethwaite were convicted on both counts after a trial. Jackson admitted conspiracy to supply crack cocaine only, while Postlethwaite admitted permitting premises to be used in the supply of a class A drug.

Carlisle Crown Court, where the criminals were sentenced. Credit: ITV Border

Doyle was jailed for 10 years and one month, Hughes-O’Brien received a seven-year prison sentence and Jameson was locked up for four years, 10 months.

Of the four Cumbrians, Postlethwaite and Pullin were each jailed for three-and-a-half years; Jackson had a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years; and Kirkpatrick’s 24-week jail term was suspended for 18 months. Jackson and Kirkpatrick, now of Newby Bridge, near Windermere, must each complete 100 hours’ unpaid work; and she was also given two rehabilitation requirements — one for six months to specifically tackle drugs misuse.

Detective Chief Inspector Matt Scott - of Cumbria Constabulary - was the senior investigating officer overseeing the operation.

He said: “Operation Earnest was a significant operation involving multiple police departments and external partner agencies and police forces. The aim was to identify, disrupt and dismantle this organised crime group, which was targeting west Cumbria.

“The world of criminal drugs supply always moves on and we are never complacent. But following this operation there was a big effect on the availability of heroin and crack cocaine, which had a knock-on positive effect on other linked crimes.”

Detective Inspector Duncan Brooker added: “We constantly monitor for emerging problems or trends in crime. And after receiving intelligence that this was becoming an emerging problem in Workington, we acted swiftly to gather information and act to stamp it out.

 “County lines is exploitative drug supply and is devastating to local communities, with its effect going well beyond those who are directly involved in the local drugs scene.”