A gang of "sophisticated and driven" criminals who are believed to have flooded Torbay with over £1.6m worth of heroin and crack cocaine, have been jailed for a combined 146 years.
The gang operated a drugs network that Devon & Cornwall Police say, was responsible for the "lion's share" of the Class A narcotics market in Torquay, Paignton and beyond.
The outfit's leader and five other members had already been sentenced back in March, but ten remaining members of the group have now been put behind bars, following a hearing at Exeter Crown Court yesterday (Thursday 16 July) and on Wednesday (15 July).
Officers arrested the gang on 21 March 2019, seizing high-purity crack cocaine and heroin with a street value of £38,840 and investigators believe that the volume of drugs they supplied was in the region of £1.6m.
This figure is estimated through the gang's use of unregistered "graft phones", that they used to conduct business between November 2017 and March 2019.
During sentencing of the ten remaining members, the judge described their actions as a "substantial and well-organised conspiracy", before members were handed a combined sentence of 48 years and seven months.
The major operation saw couriers carry out runs between Liverpool and Devon, which police intercepted on several occasions, seizing the likes of Class A drugs and on one occasion, £30,000.
(Police seized £30,000 (above) after intercepting a courier run between Liverpool and Devon. Picture credits: Devon & Cornwall Police)
The group also used a safe house in Dorchester Road, Torquay to store the narcotics.
(Four of the gang's members caught outside a safe house which was used in Torquay. Picture credits: Devon & Cornwall Police)
Detective Inspector Ben Davies said:
“The sentences handed out send a clear message to those who feel that they can transport drugs into our communities.
“This gang of sophisticated and driven criminals set up a lucrative drugs network making in excess of £1million by selling heroin and cocaine in the South Devon areas of Torquay and Paignton.
“Through the dedication of the officers involved, this complex investigation uncovered the depth and breadth of the gang’s involvement in the drugs market in these towns.
“The gang made substantial amounts of money during their drugs activity and lived lavish lifestyles - splashing out on holidays, cars, clothes and parties.
“I commend the professionalism and dedication of the investigating teams in Devon and Cornwall for the lengths they have gone to, ensuring this organised crime group was identified, arrested and convicted.
“Devon and Cornwall Police will continue to pursue these groups in order to protect the communities they target.
“I would urge any residents to have the confidence to call the police or Crimestoppers and report drug-dealing activity, so we can be made aware and look to stop it as soon as possible.
“The same Devon and Cornwall officers, working in partnership with the Complex Case Unit within the South West Crown Prosecution Service, have successfully dismantled and incarcerated two separate large gangs operating in both Dawlish and Torquay over the last 18 months.”
The sentences for the ten remaining members of the gang are as follows:
- Liam Southern, aged 21, from Netherton, Merseyside, who moved to Devon - jailed for seven years and nine months.
- Liverpool-based supplier Jack Ross, 28 - was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison.
- Dealers Terence Ingham, 25, of Torquay, and Elliot Atkinson, 22, from Merseyside - jailed for six-and-a-half years and six years and three months respectively.
- Couriers Paula Storey, 57, Jessica Storey, 29, and Paul O’Brien, 41, all from Liverpool - sentenced to two-and-a-half years, four years, and four years and nine months in prison respectively.
- Paul Riley, aged 39, also a courier from Liverpool, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply heroin and cocaine following a trial - jailed for three-and-a-half years.
- Peter Thompson, 43, who occupied a safe house in Torquay used by the gang, admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine - jailed for four years and 10 months
- Danny Ambrose, 32, of Buckfastleigh, pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of a Class A drug - handed a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years.
Separate proceedings took place for other members of the group earlier this year and their sentences (amounting to 98 years and three months) are as follows:
- Gang leader Joshua Garrett, 30, of Torquay, was found guilty of attempted murder. He admitted robbery, conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin, and wounding with intent - jailed for 33 years on March 5.
- Ben Bramall, 29, of Paignton, was found guilty of attempted murder. He admitted robbery and conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin - sentenced to 28 years in prison.
- Tony Size, 30, from Merseyside, was convicted of wounding with intent and robbery and admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin - sentenced to 19-and-a-half years in prison.
- Daniel Whitehead, 30, of Torquay, was convicted of wounding with intent and robbery and admitted offering to supply and being concerned in an offer to supply Class A drugs - jailed for a total of 10 years.
- James Barbutt, of Torquay, was found guilty of robbery and admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin. He was sentenced to a total of five-and-a-half years in prison on 16 March.