Police has shown its commitment to tackling the scourge of drugs with the conviction of two organised crime groups.
This brings a total of 14 convictions following two linked conspiracies across North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire, with 11 people having being convicted at a trial earlier this year.
Steven Robert Small, 29, from York, who was a key player in both of these conspiracies, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply Cass A and Class B drugs. He was convicted earlier in 2013 of conspiring to supply a Class A drug, cocaine, conspiring to supply class B drugs and conspiracy to convert criminal proceeds in York. He has been sentenced to a total of 12 years’ imprisonment.
Daniel James Fisher, 35, from Bradford, was convicted of conspiracy to supply Class A and Class B drugs and has received a prison sentence of 10 years.
Benjamin Lindley Tootill, 30, of Harrogate, received a sentence of 10 years, having been convicted of conspiring to supply Class A drugs.
Oliver Hawksworth, 28, from Harrogate, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to the supply Class B drugs prior to the start of the trial. He received a sentence of six months suspended for two years, an 18 month supervision order and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
Reporting restrictions which were imposed at the conclusion of a trial and convictions of organised crime group members who all lived in the York area – including Small – earlier this year, have now been lifted.
At that trial, Andrew Paul Beard, 31, Robbie James Burns, 33, Lee Quinlivan, 23, David Atkinson, 34, and Paul Garside, 43, were found guilty of conspiring to supply Class B drugs. They received sentences of three years, 12 months suspended for 12 months, 18 months, six years, and 21 months respectively.
Claire Allan, 24, was found guilty of conspiring to convert criminal proceeds and received a nine month prison sentence suspended for two years.
Edward Peart, 26, Simon Turner, 32, and Daniel Taal, 26, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class B drugs at an earlier hearing. Dennis Patton, 36, pleaded guilty to production of cannabis. Their respective sentences were 27 months, 21 months, 30 months and a conditional discharge.
The convictions bring to a close two long-running and complicated operations, Operose and Felsic.
The separate investigations into organised crime groups began in January 2011, one centred in York and the other in Harrogate, Wetherby and Leeds. It soon became apparent they were linked by Stephen Small, both operating across the North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire areas. They involved many hours of covert police tactics including surveillance, analysis of mobile phone contacts and concealed recording equipment. The evidence gathered in this way in part included the conspirators implicating themselves in the offences.
Police enquiries showed that although the two gangs were separate organisations, they conducted business with each other.
As a result of the investigation Class A and Class B drugs with a value in excess of £300,000 were seized. Officers also confiscated more than £150,000 in cash.
The gang members were arrested between January and April 2012.
Detective Inspector Matt Walker, of North Yorkshire Police’s Organised Crime Unit, led the investigations.
Detective Inspector Matt Walker said:
I am very satisfied with the verdicts of the court and the sentences handed down following the trials at Teesside Crown Court of a group of people who were involved, to varying degrees, in a conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs.
Stephen Small is a cunning man who was the mastermind at the centre of a criminal web. He ran his criminal enterprise in a professional business-like manner, working closely with his co-conspirators. He distanced himself from handling the drugs, however the evidence and subsequent verdicts clearly show he orchestrated the business.
The evidence gathered during the investigation into the gang operating in Harrogate and West Yorkshire, revealed that they planned drug supply between themselves and their customers, maintaining regular phone contact and using a courier to transport the drugs. They were all very careful not to be caught in possession of drugs. The proactive operation to catch this group resulted in significant seizures of drugs.
The gang members now have to face the consequences of their criminal behaviour and will now spend a significant length of time behind bars.The investigations and prosecutions of the gangs, who intended to distribute drugs into our communities, demonstrates North Yorkshire Police’s clear determination, and the powers available to us, to keep the scourge of drugs off our streets.
If you know of anyone involved in the illegal drugs trade, I urge you to contact North Yorkshire Police. Or, if you would rather remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers.
Anyone with information about people supplying controlled drugs should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option 1 and pass the details to the Force Control Room.
Or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.