1. ITV Report

Gang who flew £550,000 of drugs and phones into prisons using drones sentenced

Seven members of a criminal gang who flew £550,000 of drugs and phones into prisons using drones have been sentenced today to jail terms ranging from three to 10 years.

What did they do?

The drones were packed with drugs, tied on with fishing line.

Pilot Brandon Smith from Tipton or an accomplice would direct the drone to a cell window.

Credit: West Midlands Police

The inmate would reel in the drugs, using the fishing line.

Communication with those inside was done using banned mobile phones.

They operated 55 flights for 14 months at prisons in the Midlands and North West - Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Worcestershire, Warrington, Lancashire and Liverpool.

Credit: West Midlands Police

A drone flier, assisted by one or two others, would speak to an inmate on a contraband phone to guide a drone into prison where the attached parcel would be hooked off using sticks.

Drugs on board the 11 seized drones had an estimated prison value of around £110,000 - so with at least 55 flights that amounts to more than half a million pounds worth of drugs they've tried to land behind prison walls.

– Detective Inspector Gareth Williams, West Midlands Police

What were the goods?

They transported drugs and phones which would be worth half a million pounds on the inside:

  • Skunk and synthetic cannabis
  • Amphetamines
  • Crack cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Steroids
  • Mobile phones
  • SIM cards
  • Memory sticks
Credit: West Midlands Police

How were they caught?

A crashed drone was discovered near to HMP Oakwood in Wolverhampton - covered in Smith’s fingerprints.

Police recovered 11 drones in total.

The investigation is believed to be the biggest ever of its kind in UK policing.

The judge handed suspended prison terms to five other defendants, saying

"Deterrent sentences are not only justified but essential."