Delays in cases of 30 alleged drug dealers as barristers strike over legal aid
PUBLISHED: 07:55 24 May 2018 | UPDATED: 08:22 24 May 2018
The cases of more than 30 alleged drug dealers are being derailed for weeks as barristers take strike action over cuts to fees paid in legal aid.
Over the course of two days, a total of 31 people accused of being concerned in the supply of heroin and cocaine in Norwich are coming before the courts after a seven month police investigation into the city trade.
Of the 20 people appearing at Norwich Crown Court on Tuesday, 15 had been granted legal aid but were unable to find a barrister willing to act for them.
They include Eddie Stannard, brother of drug user Steve Stannard who was stabbed to death by London dealer Hassiem Baqir in November 2016.
Stannard is charged with two counts of possession with intent to supply a Class A drug, and has been remanded into custody after appearing without a barrister over video link from HMP Norwich.
All defendants were arrested as part of Operation Granary, a probe which involved undercover police officers making test purchases from suspected dealers, and over two weeks last month officers moved to arrest the main players.
But as groups of alleged dealers appeared at Norwich Crown Court in a parade over video link from prison or answering bail, Judge Anthony Bate told them the “national problem” of the barrister strike meant three quarters of the defendants did not have a barrister or any legal advice.
“There’s is a total of 20 defendants due to be produced before me in small groups over the course of this morning, and more are due tomorrow,” he said. “All of you are charged with offences relating to Class A drug dealing following a large police inquiry code named Operation Granary.
“At present no barrister can be found who is willing to take the brief to advise you in conference and represent you in court. We all await a national solution.
“In the meantime we must do our best to progress these new cases while being fair to all sides, including yourselves and the public at large. We have to strike a balance.
“What I am minded to do is to adjourn these cases for a few weeks to see if the national problem is resolved.”
The Criminal Bar Association has recommended its members refuse all new legal aid cases from April 1, after warning the criminal justice system was “underfunded and in chaos”.
Operation Granary involved test purchases by undercover officers working in Norwich.
That work fed into the seven months of investigation which led Norfolk Police to carry out two weeks of raids and pre-planned arrests around Norwich and London.
Code named Operation Cayman, the fortnight of enforcement involved around 50 officers every day.
Intelligence gathered from the operation has revealed 28 lines of drug supply into the city, along with 11 other individual drug suppliers.
The first three days of enforcement resulted in 30 arrests, with 21 people being charged or remanded into police custody.
It is believed to date the operation has had an impact on six local drug suppliers, six identified county lines and 16 drugs groups with supply links to the London area.
It comes as the Norfolk Constabulary effort to stifle the flow of Class A drugs into the region has seen more than 600 arrests since November 2016.
Defendants charged under the banner of Operation Granary appeared in court on Tuesday in groups on separate indictments.
Granita Scales, 38, Jonas Messacki, 23, Dylan Bello, 24, Charlie Moore, 18, and Ocean Todd, 19, are charged jointly on a six-count indictment with a 17-year-old girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons. The youth admitted three counts but denied conspiracy, while Moore admitted possession with intent to supply. The others have had their cases adjourned. Scales, Messacki, Bello and Moore were remanded into custody while Todd was bailed.
Gaffiel Abdullah, 57, Adesola Malomo, 24, Sarah Hodge, 32 and David Rivenburg, 39, are charged together on a four-count indictment. Molomo, of London, admitted conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and was remanded into custody.
Abdullah and Riverburg were remanded after their cases were adjourned and Hodge was bailed to a later date.
Bevin Bascombe, who turns 28 on Wednesday, is charged on a five count indictment alongside Ricky Wilson, 45, and Vicky King, 28.
Wilson denied conspiracy with intent to supply and the supply of Class A drugs, and was remanded into custody. Bascombe and King did not enter pleas and were also remanded.
Michael Katindi, 28, of Old Mint Yard, admitted conspiracy but denied the supply of Class A drugs and possession with intent to supply.
Rufin Kongolo, 23, Kelly Cornwell, 41, of Dolphin Grove, Junjs Renins, 34, of Norwich and a 16-year-old from Norwich all had their cases adjourned. Kongolo was remanded into custody while Cornwell and the youth were bailed. Renins refused to appear over video link and his case was adjourned.
A further 17-year-old had his case adjourned and was remanded into the custody of his local authority in London.