MEMBERS of a major criminal gang have been given prison sentences amounting to more than 60 years for supplying and dealing cocaine and cannabis across the North East and North West.
They were caught as a result of a lengthy surveillance and intelligence-gathering operation named Skyhawk, which culminated with 200 officers involved in early-morning raids at properties across County Durham and Merseyside in early February 2013.
Police said the drugs had a street value of more than £1 million.
At Teesside Crown Court yesterday, after being found guilty of conspiracy to supply drugs, Sam Turnbull, 36, from Hetton, received a sentence of 11 years and two months, while Alan Crawford, 42 of Houghton, was handed a nine-year term.
Ian McCabe, 43, from Pittington in County Durham, will serve more than five years in prison, Timothy John Lister, aged 40 from Consett in County Durham, was sent to jail for 16 years, Stephen John Golding, aged 33 from Liverpool, for five years and six months; and 31-year-old Gary John Kays, from Liverpool, was handed a three-year and five months prison term.
The other members of the gang received either prison terms of two years or less, a suspended sentence or community order.
Following their sentencing, Det Chief Insp Victoria Fuller, head of Durham Constabulary’s specialist crime operations unit said: “The sentences given by the court demonstrate very clearly that those who choose a life of organised crime will be caught and dealt with.
“The men we arrested were, quite simply, horrible people who only cared for themselves.
“At no stage did they give a single thought to the misery their offending inflicted on communities or the innocent people caught up in their activities.
“This is not just about the damage drugs themselves may cause but the associated crime which can badly affect communities, not just in our area but others as well.
“Our aim is to keep the communities of County Durham and Darlington safe, and the fact we arrested people from Merseyside, Humberside and the Greater Manchester area as well as the North East shows how this type of crime cuts across boundaries.
“People who choose a career in crime should be aware there are no hiding places.
“Wherever they operate, and whatever type of crime they move into they should be looking over their shoulders, because we know who they are and sooner or later we will catch up with them.”
“In 2010 we launched “Sledgehammer”, a relentless campaign to hit organised crime where it hurts.
“As a result we have since arrested and secured convictions against scores of major criminals, and used proceeds of crime legislation to strip them of any material gains they have made from their offending.”