Gunman jailed for Sunderland gangland shooting appeals against conviction
A gunman jailed after firing shots at a house as part of a gangland feud has launched an appeal against the court verdict.
James Lee Ratcliff was locked up for 24 years in November 2018 after he was convicted of firing six bullets through the window of a house in Craigshaw Square, Hylton Castle, Sunderland, in September 2016.
Ratcliff, who was 35 at the time of his sentence, was found guilty of conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life, conspiracy to supply cocaine and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
Three other men were also jailed for a total of nearly 45 years as part of what Judge Deborah Sherwin labelled “a revenge attack by one group of organised criminals against another”.
Now Ratcliff, described in court as a “self-styled underworld enforcer”, is appealing against at least one of his three convictions at London’s Court of Appeal this Thursday.
The ringleader of the gang, Tony Trott, then 30, of South Terrace, Southwick, Sunderland, was also due to appeal against his sentence and at least one of his convictions on the same day.
He was jailed for 26 years after he was found guilty at the same trial of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life and conspiracy to supply cocaine.
But the Court of Appeal now says he has abandoned both appeals.
The Newcastle Crown Court sentencing hearing was told the attack quickly followed a burglary in Hylton Road, Sunderland, of a property used by Trott to store drugs.
Described as “a taxing by one drugs gang on another”, Trott recruited Ratcliff to carry out the shooting.
Peter Makepeace, prosecuting, told the court: "Three adult males were in that room. It is extraordinary good fortune that none were hurt.”
Lee Barnett, 42, of Throston Grange, Hartlepool, who joined Trott and Ratcliff at the attack, was jailed for 16 years after he was convicted at the trial of conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life.
Philip Steabler, 41, of Thorndale Road, Sunderland, described as a petty criminal who helped with the logistics of the shooting, was locked up for 35 months for assisting an offender and being concerned in the supply of cocaine.