Wearside men jailed after police operation cracks drugs gang

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TWO men from the Sunderland area are among a criminal gang jailed for more than 60 years for supplying and dealing in drugs across the north of England.

The gang of 12 were caught after what police call 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.

Sam Turnbull, 36, from Hetton-le-Hole received a sentence of 11 years and two months and Alan Crawford, 42 of Houghton, was handed a nine-year term.

Ian McCabe, 43, from Pittington, will also serve more than five years.

At Teesside Crown Court today Timothy John Lister, aged 40 from Consett was sent to jail for 16 years.

Stephen John Golding, aged 33 from Liverpool will go to jail for five years and six months, and 31-year-old Gary John Kays, who is 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. One man has yet to be sentenced and will be dealt with by the court on Monday next week.

Det Chief Insp Victoria Fuller, head of Durham Constabulary’s specialist crime operations unit, said the gang had operated across the north east and north west of England.

“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.”

He added: “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.”