Modern slavery drugs gang jailed for 40 years
- Credit: Archant
A drugs gang that 'deliberately and unscrupulously' trafficked children to sell drugs on the streets of Great Yarmouth have been jailed for almost 40 years.
It is the region's first modern slavery conviction for county lines groups.
Norwich Crown Court heard how the 'Chase' drug gang moved into Great Yarmouth to fill a gap in the market created after a rival gang was disrupted.
Judge Andrew Shaw, jailing them on Tuesday, said he had "no doubt" they had taken the place of the 'Deano' network supplying addicts in the town.
Led by William Donkoh, that group were sentenced to a total of 57-and -a-half years jail in April of this year.
And Judge Shaw said the 'Chase' line, organised by 26-year-old Shaun Ellis from inside HMP Wayland, was responsible for flooding the streets of Yarmouth with at least a kilogram of heroin and crack cocaine between May and October of last year.
You may also want to watch:
"The 'Chase' line's predecessor in Great Yarmouth was the 'Deano' network," said Judge Shaw. "It became quite clear that group's activities were brought to a complete halt when William Donkoh was arrested in June 2018.
"There is no doubt in my mind from June 2018 police had completely removed the Deano network and created a gap in the market the 'Chase' line was all too willing and able to fill.
- 1 'Vindicated at last' - Pension compensation on the horizon for WASPI women
- 2 Body of man in 20s found at nature reserve near Norwich
- 3 Sky broadband issues across Norfolk and Suffolk resolved
- 4 Drug dealer walks free from court for his 145th offence
- 5 Shocked couple told statue used as doorstop could be worth £1m
- 6 New landlords relaunch pub with three-course dog menu
- 7 Clean-up operation begins as town 'flooded completely' by heavy rain
- 8 'Is this a wind up?' - Artist's shock as Delia buys 101 of his paintings
- 9 Plot of gold? Land up for sale for £750,000
- 10 Watch: Woman left bleeding and bruised after e-scooter crash
"The 'Chase' line, like the 'Deano' line before it, flooded the streets of Great Yarmouth with quantities of controlled drugs consistent with around one kilogram."
Ellis ran the dealer line, which is estimated to have made more than £124,000 over a four-month period, while serving in Wayland Prison, and got Nathan Hamilton to run the business for him while he was inside.
Jude Durr, prosecuting at Norwich Crown Court, said that Ellis was in regular phone contact on a daily basis with Hamilton, 29, from jail speaking in "slang" terms to arrange drug deals and telling him what he should do.
Mr Durr said drugs came from London to Great Yarmouth and investigations revealed that as part of the drugs enterprise two boys aged 15 and 16 had been brought to Norfolk to sell drugs. The two have since been identified as victims of modern slavery.
"These were both young and vulnerable individuals."
The operation was smashed after police arrested Hamilton and 28-year-old Blaire Carpenter-Angol in a car at Fullers Hill, in Great Yarmouth, and managed to seize mobile phones, including the dealer phone for the 'Chase' line, which showed more than 30,000 calls and messages had been made over a four-month period.
They recovered messages which included Ellis asking how the business was doing and Hamilton telling him they had loads of customers "happy banging" the phone, which was slang for drug users contacting the line.
Mr Durr said that Ellis also at times was annoyed at Hamilton, telling him he could not "pattern up" - meaning he was not up to running the business.
While in police custody, police grew suspicious that Carpenter-Angol had secreted drugs inside his body and after several days he was taken to the James Paget University Hospital to have 272 wraps of heroin and 292 wraps of cocaine removed which had a street value totalling £5,640.
Mr Durr said: "This conspiracy had the expectation of making substantial financial gain."
Ellis, who was described as the "commander-in-chief" admitted conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin between May and October 12 last year.
Hamilton, of Mawby Street, London, pleaded guilty to arranging the travel of another person with a view to exploitation along with two counts of conspiring to supply crack cocaine and heroin.
Richard Conley, for Ellis, claimed he was not in charge of the whole operation and said: "He is not a chief executive officer. He was more akin to being a major shareholder."
He said that Ellis went off the rails when his step-brother was murdered and said that he had got involved in the murky world of drugs.
Claire Matthews, for Nicholas Lawrence, 47, of Gapton Hall Road, Great Yarmouth, said he became involved as a well-known local drug user, who had been on the Great Yarmouth drugs scene for 25 years.
It made him an obvious asset to the gang as he knew the local market.
David Stewart, for Carpenter-Angol from London, said he had only been involved in the drugs conspiracy for two months .
Benjamin Squirrell, for Thimotew Adetona, 19, from Barnet, said his motive for getting involved had been money and said: "He has been candid in what brought him into this."
Judge Shaw said Ellis had been "if not at the top, at least second in command" of the whole operation.
"It is clear Mr Ellis had been running the 'Chase' line for at least two years before it was disrupted in October 2018," he said.
"A particularly invidious feature of this case was the recruitment and trafficking of children who were recruited in London and driven to Great Yarmouth.
"It was abundantly clear from the prison phone calls that the recruitment of children, or 'yuts', as street level dealers was an essential part of this conspiracy.
"That was calculated and deliberate.
"The number of young offenders who claim to have been trafficked is rising all the time. Those vulnerable children and young people are diverted away from the criminal justice system. The truth is their criminality is your criminality.
"On more occasions than I care to remember it has been my duty to articulate the harmful effects causing by the trafficking and consumption of heroin and crack cocaine.
"They are pernicious products and their primary evil is to damage the health of those who take them. Sometimes the consequences are fatal.
"To see someone who is addicted to heroin or crack cocaine is to see someone who is a shadow of their former selves. I do not understand how any human being can think of making money by selling these poisons to another human being.
"Each of you should ask yourselves how you have come to be so selfish and greedy, and how your moral compasses went so badly awry."
Ellis was jailed for 11 years and eight months, Hamilton for ten years and nine months, Lawrence for eight years and six months, Carpenter-Angol for five years, and Adetona for 27 months.
First modern slavery case
Police said the conviction of Hamilton under modern slavery legislation was the "first of its kind" as a warning to others.
Sergeant Tony Hogan said: "Today's sentences reflects the seriousness of these offences and is the culmination of a 12 month investigation into an organised crime group who exploited vulnerable people for their own financial gain.
"This is the perfect example of how a county line operates and it is the first case in Norfolk where we have secured a prosecution under modern slavery laws. Officers in Norfolk not only remain committed to targeting those who supply Class A drugs but also to using the full force of the law available to us to stop those responsible."
Chief Superintendent Dave Marshall added: "This is the first conviction of its kind in Norfolk and East Anglia as a whole. The use of modern slavery legislation is an important aspect of targeting those criminal networks who exploit vulnerable children and adults within communities for their own financial gain. Today's conviction sends a clear message that we will utilise all legislation available to us nationally to stop county lines drug dealing and pursue offenders under Gravity."