Fifteen drug dealers in Norwich have been jailed for a total of more than 45 years following a specialist drugs operation.

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A number of people were arrested during a series of drugs raids across the city in November last year following a three-month long investigation into Class A dealing by Norfolk’s Special Operations Unit (SOU).

The investigation, codenamed Operation Saber, targeted a heroin and cocaine supply network between London and Norwich in summer 2011.

The action culminated in a series of dawn raids in early November with officers targeting addresses in Wellington Green, Langley Walk, West Pottergate, Haslips Close, William Kett Close, Aylsham Road, Springbank, St Augustine’s Gate, Reepham Road and Lefroy Road in Norwich and Lark Rise in Mulbarton.

Police seized a quantity of Class A drugs – 4gm of crack cocaine and 8.2gm of heroin with a combined street value of around £800.

Fifteen people were subsequently charged with drug related offences and they were sentenced over a number of days, concluding yesterday, at Norwich Crown Court after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing.

Det Insp Gary Bloomfield, who led the investigation, said: “This operation has taken a large number of drug dealers off the streets of Norwich. Offenders of this type fuel acquisitive crime and Norfolk police will continue to target such individuals to ensure our commun-ities remain safe.”

The court heard that, as part of Operation Saber, an undercover officer known as Max infiltrated four separate drugs gangs in Norwich.

By ingratiating himself with known drug users he obtained the phone numbers of the dealers whom he contacted, and who then supplied him with drugs at various secluded spots across Norwich.

A number of mobile phones were seized from the dealers which detailed the extent of the drug dealing being carried out by the gangs.

Judge Peter Jacobs told the defendants that any punishment he handed out would be insignificant compared to the punishment they had inflicted on themselves.

He said: “You seem to me by your involvement and your own lifestyles to be inflicting upon yourself far more punishment than this court can. You are destroying your own lives.”

Prosecuting, Andrea Lock said that the first gang was run by Daniel Sharpe, 22, who had the organisational ability to arrange the supply of a significant amount of class A drugs and controlled a number of others.

He was able to offer drugs at various prices, £135, £155 and £170, depending on the purity.

He recently moved from Bradford to Norwich and saw the opportunity to supply drugs, recruiting George Jacobs, a friend who also moved to Norwich from Bradford, Miss Lock said.

Miss Lock said Sharpe revealed the number of the mobile phone he used for drug dealing when he was booked in at the custody suite at Aylsham police station for a different matter. He had been caught topping up the mobile phones used in drug dealing.

Buxton was caught red-handed when police executed a warrant at Neil Jacobs’ home, in Wellington Green, Norwich, which he was sharing. He was found with 19 wraps of heroin with a street value of £200 which he threw out of the window.

He was also found with £1,819 in cash and four mobiles, two of which contained calls which revealed his involvement in dealing drugs to at least seven individuals.

The second drug gang was headed by London drug dealers Wilkes and Yapi, who directed four runners, Elston, Kuta, Wooderson and Burke.

Miss Lock said: “Wilkes and Yapi ran this group. They transported drugs from London to Norwich to be sold at street level. They directed the others to deal drugs. Yapi travelled from London to Norwich to restock dealers.”

The third group of Savage, Blanch and Wheatland were recruited as runners by London-based dealers and sold drugs in Norwich sourced from the capital.

Nation, who was part of the London-based “Danny” gang, which transported drugs to Norwich to sell at street level, was in the city to sell drugs and recruit runners.

The judge told him he would have to explain how he had more than £7,000 in his bank account, despite being on benefits.

Jonathan Goodman, for George Jacob, said: “He only dealt drugs once to Max... He was trying to get heroin for himself, but was £3 short. He took drugs to meet a man who would make up the shortfall.”

Matthew McNiff, for Neil Jacobs, said: “The defendant pleaded guilty at the first opportunity... He was a drug user and a mere runner.”

Michael Clare, for Hollings, said: “He has been a heroin addict for 25 years, but he has not offended since 2006. This was a classic example of someone being used in the chain of supply in return for feeding his own habit.”

John Farmer, for Sharpe, said: “Drink and drugs have been the hallmark of his life and to all intents and purposes he left school at 12. We are looking at a street dealer here, and not a person controlling others.”

Michael Clare, for Elston, said: “I accept that he is a street dealer, but he played a lesser role. He’s also a heroin addict.”

Jude Durr, for Kuta, said: “She is a vulnerable young woman. She was given up by her mother at the age of five or six. She had an abusive relationship with her father, and gave up her son for adoption.”

Katherine Moore, for Wooderson, said: “He has previous convictions for drug offences. He admitted in interview his own involvement. He is a drug user and abuser.”

Stephen Spence, for Savage, said: “His pattern of offending has dropped off in recent years. He admits he funds his drug use through benefits and some crime.”

Guy Ayers, for Wheatland, said: “His dealing was only on one occasion. In the early 90s he shared accommodation with someone else, who shared drugs, and the other person died from an overdose.”

Alix Kettle-Williams, for Nation, said: “He had no involvement other than being a runner. He has been living with his older brother, who is wheelchair-bound and has cerebral palsy, and he has been his carer.”

Jonathan Morgans, for Buxton, said: “He has a long-standing drug addiction, but was a self-employed carpenter. He is determined to conquer his addiction to drugs.”

Jonathan Morgans, for Burke, said: “He has been addicted to heroin for 25 years. After 10 years trying to get his own accommodation, he has found a flat, but will now lose it because of his custodial sentence. ”

Jonathan Morgans, for Blanch, said: “He has had a long-term drug addiction since the age of 16, but he has been making significant progress. But on this occasion he relapsed, got into debt, and paid it off by working for the drug dealers.”

Sentences:

The Wilkes and Yapi group:

Aaron Wilkes, 20, of Bisterne Road, Walthamstow, London – three years and eight months

Guy Yapi, 21, of Radbourne Crescent, Walthamstow, London – four-and-a-half years

James Elston, 30, of Reepham Road, Norwich – three years -

Saul Wooderson, 31, of Lark Rise, Mulbarton – two years and three months

Maria Kuta, 36, of Springbank, Norwich – two years and three months -

Paul Burke, 41, of Blazer Court, Northumberland Street, Norwich – three years and three months -

The Daniel Sharpe gang:

Daniel Sharpe, 21, of Wellington Green, , Norwich – four years -

Neil Jacobs, 43, of Wellington Green, Norwich – two-and-a-half years,

Richard Hollings, 47, Lefroy Road, Norwich – two years and two months -

George Vernon Jacob, 28, of no fixed abode – two years and four months,

Kevin Buxton, 44, of Wellington Green, Norwich – three years

The K Team: No real leader:

Andrew Blanch, 34, of William Kett Close, Norwich –two years and eight months -

Lee Savage, 37, of Haslips Road Norwich –two years and four months -

Mark Wheatland, 46 of, Aylsham Road, Norwich –four-and-a-half years

Part of the London-based Danny group:

Gideon Nation, 28, of Wellham House, Peckahm Rye, London – two years and eight months

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