“An evil trade” - teenagers first to be sentenced for drug dealing after Norwich undercover operation
PUBLISHED: 19:35 09 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:16 10 August 2018
Four teenagers have been the first cohort of dozens of dealers to be sentenced after a six-month undercover operation targeting the “evil trade” of Class A drugs in Norwich.
Norwich Crown Court heard today (Thursday) how children lived a “wretched existence” selling crack and heroin, often after leaving or within the care system, at the addresses of drug users in the city.
But Judge Anthony Bate, presiding over more than 50 cases charged under the umbrella of Operation Granary, warned drug dealers could “expect to be jailed”.
“In spring 2018, Norfolk Constabulary officers made a series of coordinated interventions targeted at ‘county lines’ networks dealing Class A drugs - heroin and crack cocaine - on the streets of Norwich,” said Judge Bate.
“Arrests were made when there was sufficient test purchase evidence from a deployed undercover officer known to us as Tommo and associated surveillance sightings. Mobile phone traffic was studied. Some phone holders were arrested in London. The oldest defendant sent here is 57; the youngest 16.”
Arrests were made in April when Norfolk Police moved to enforcement after months of gathering intelligence through their undercover work.
In the first week of action 17 addresses were raided and 33 arrests were made.
29 adults and five children (aged under 18) are set to be sentenced over the next month, with nine adults and one child preparing to stand in seven separate trials in the autumn.
Ten further adults will be sentenced at a later date.
Judge Bate added: “The message will continue to go out from this court that anyone who joins in the distribution of Class A drugs in Norfolk can usually expect to be jailed.
“It is an evil trade, which brings much human misery in its wake.
“However, there may be occasions when a different disposal can be chosen, if that defendant’s motivation and local level of involvement in his dealer group make it a realistic and just option.”
One of the drug dealers arrested and charged under Operation Granary was Kenneth Martin, 37, of no fixed abode, who admitted supply of a Class A drug and was due to be sentenced.
But Norwich Crown Court heard this morning Mr Martin died on July 31.
Judge Bate closed the file on the basis the defendant is now deceased.
The Rico line
One of the county lines disrupted as part of Operation Granary was the Rico line, the court heard, with its two main phone holders convicted.
Idris Mohammed, 19, of Cricklewood Lane, Kilburn, was jailed for three years and four months after admitting the supply of heroin and crack cocaine.
His co-defendant Kamal John, 18, of Woods Avenue, Hatfield, who also admitted his part, was bailed to be sentenced on September 13.
The pair had taken over a flat in Colegate, which police raided on January 11 after reports the occupant had “fled for fear of their safety”, Chris Youell, prosecuting, told the court.
“The general scheme was an undercover officer was going out and about in Norwich, supported by a team of surveillance officers taking photos of what was going on,” he said.
Tommo had encountered Mohammed and John in November 2017, and was given the main dealer number before speaking to man with “a London accent”.
He was sent to Aspland Road for the transaction and continued test purchases with the pair.
“The drugs that were purchased for cash were analysed with reasonably high purity heroin of up to 50pc, but with cocaine talking about purities of up to 91pc,” said Mr Youell.
“One of a number of text messages sent out says “Best of both” and offers good quality cocaine to the drug users of Norwich. They are living up to their advertising as far as that is concerned.”
When the Colegate flat was raided police found Mohammed and John along with a large knife and more than £1,000 in cash.
“It would appear these two young men are not just naive runners who are sent up to sell these drugs and will be told where to go,” said Mr Youell. “It goes above that in the sense they are directing use of the phones which are in their possession.
“There has been a distinction made by police between local addicts just dealing in return for drugs or because they are in debt, and young people coming up from London or local young people dealing for the benefit of dealing.
“The Rico network, as far as the phones are concerned is operated locally.”
Joe Hingston, mitigating for Mohammed, said he had “only recently left care before he found himself in Norwich”.
“He is a street dealer - the person most exposed to arrest in this operation,” he said. “It is a wretched existence. There is certainly nothing glamorous about the role he was undertaking - living in drug users’ houses in squalid conditions in Norwich.”
The Carlos line
A 17-year-old from Norfolk who cannot be named for legal reasons was jailed for two years and eight months for his role in two county line drug networks in Norwich, including as a “self employed” dealer.
Evidence from undercover officer ‘Tommo’ described a meeting at Chapelfield Gardens on March 6, when he told the officer he was “doing his own thing”.
He had established his own phone line named ‘Carlos’ and become a “competent drug dealer”, Mr Youell said.
‘Tommo’ had known the teenager since January as he had been “heavily involved in dealing Class A drugs on the streets of Norwich,” he added.
On January 11 he had been arrested by a uniformed officer who was “not part of the team involved in Operation Granary”.
The officer had been searching for the 17-year-old as a missing person, and seized phones and a number of wraps from him, before he was released under investigation.
“Having been caught red-handed that doesn’t seem to have stopped him from carrying on to make his living as a drug dealer,” Mr Youell said. “He knew the police were looking at him but he carried on.”
Nicholas Stewart, mitigating, said the teenager, who admitted the offences, “is a child” who now lives with a foster carer.
“He is moving away from his previous history of criminal behaviour and starting to recognise the consequences of his offending.”
The Buzz line
Lauren Brown was 17 when, as an “extremely vulnerable” teenager, she became involved in the world of drug dealing.
Now an 18-year-old, Brown escaped immediate jail after she admitted a brief two-week involvement selling to the undercover police officer in January.
Evidence from ‘Tommo’ at Norwich Crown Court described one exchange with the drug network on January 10 when Brown got out of a taxi with an older woman and approached him.
“This defendant spat two wraps from her mouth and handed them to the undercover officer for £20,” said Daniel Taylor, prosecuting. “In interview she said she had begun to do some runs to earn some money but she didn’t end up being paid. After she started taking Class A drugs herself Buzz didn’t want her working for him any more. She felt under pressure to buy drugs but only because she needed money.”
Gavin Cowe, mitigating, said: “She fell prey to those with drug habits and addictions also involved in this type of behaviour. She was under their direction for a brief period of time.”
He added: “The money was for the very basics to provide food and keep a roof over her head. This is a case of a young, naive, vulnerable person becoming caught up in offending as a last resort.”
Brown, of Mousehold Lane, Norwich, was given a youth rehabilitation order for two years with supervision requirement and an electronic tag for a year with a curfew between 7pm and 7am.
The Adrian line
The youngest drug dealer charged under Operation Granary is 16, and cannot be named for legal reasons.
Mr Youell told Norwich Crown Court he was involved in dealing to the undercover officer between February 27 and March 6, even selling some heroin on “the worst day of the Beast from the East”.
“Everything in Norwich had ground to a halt apart from, it would appear, activities such as this,” he said. “No doubt there were many customers desperate for drugs.
“He was very much part of a very active group dealing to other customers. Tommo observed him on one occasion with 30 wraps in a plastic bag and a further 15 in a Kinder egg.”
Damien Moore, mitigating for the teenager, who admitted the offences, said it was his “first experience in the criminal justice system”.
“He was taken outside Great Yarmouth and placed into care in a home in Norwich,” he told the court. “He says it was somewhere he felt unsafe. Until he came to Norwich he was unknown to the police, and it is very clear whatever influences he was subjected to, this was entirely out of character for him.
“His remorse and willingness to change will stand him in good stead.” The 16-year-old was given a two-year youth rehabilitation order with two years of supervision and 20 days’ activity requirement.