Suspicious activity near Norwich bridge leads to jail terms for drugs gang

Novi Sad Friendship Bridge over the Wensum in Norwich; Photo: Bill Smith;

Novi Sad Friendship Bridge over the Wensum in Norwich; Photo: Bill Smith; - Credit: Archant © 2009

A drugs gang has been locked up for a total of 16 years after a lengthy undercover police operation.

Brandon Rodney-Lawrence. Picture: NORFOLK CONSTABULARY

Brandon Rodney-Lawrence. Picture: NORFOLK CONSTABULARY - Credit: Archant

Detectives were tipped off by a resident about suspicious behaviour under Norwich's Novi Sad Friendship Bridge, Norwich Crown Court heard yesterday.

This led to a five month police surveillance operation, with officers observing signs of drug dealing at addresses around the city and in public at locations including the bridge, Cary's Meadow off Yarmouth Road and even a supermarket.

Andrew Shaw, prosecuting, said that evidence was gathered over five months in 2014, culminating in a series of arrests and the seizure of around £13,000 of heroin and cocaine.

Evidence included pictures of some of the gang posing with bundles of money.

Steven Welton. Picture: NORFOLK CONSTABULARY

Steven Welton. Picture: NORFOLK CONSTABULARY - Credit: Archant

Eight people admitted involvement in the conspiracy to supply drugs, and six of them were sentenced yesterday.

Brandon Rodney-Lawrence, 20, of Whistlefish Court, Norwich and Titos Cassimo, 19, of Woodland Road, Hellesdon, were jailed for four years each.

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In mitigation it was heard that Cassimo had moved to England from Mozambique aged 15, quickly found himself alone and struggling to pay the rent for a flat, and had shown genuine remorse for his offending.

Michael Clare, for Rodney-Lawrence, said his client had worked in a call centre and had two young daughters.

Titos Cassimo. Picture: NORFOLK CONSTABULARY

Titos Cassimo. Picture: NORFOLK CONSTABULARY - Credit: Archant

Joao Gaspar, 17, of St Peters Road, Great Yarmouth, was sentenced to 24 months detention.

John Morgans, for Gaspar, said his client was just 15 when the offending happened and he had submitted an early guilty plea.

Judge Katharine Moore said the other three defendants were occupants of so-called 'cuckooed' addresses - which were used by the drugs gang.

Steven Welton, 40, of Hill House Road, Norwich was described as an 'active street dealer' who had continued to offend while on bail.

He was jailed for five years.

Matthew McNiff, for Welton, said his client was a drug addict and had just got a new job.

Noel McKevitt, 39, of Yarmouth Road, Norwich, admitted allowing his flat to be used by the drugs gang and was jailed for nine months.

The court heard he was a heroin addict and did not stand to benefit from his actions financially.

Paul Spelman, 34, of Hill House Road, Norwich, admitted weighing and bagging drugs for the gang on a single occasion.

He was given a 21 month jail sentence suspended for 21 months, handed a supervision order, ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work, and banned from all licensed premises for 12 months - including pubs, nightclubs and restaurants.

Mr Clare, for Spelman, said his client currently worked for an insurance company.

Judge Katharine Moore said: 'Following a complaint made by a member of the public, Norfolk police began a long-running and resource-intensive investigation which led ultimately to your identification and prosecution.

'They observed regular and frequent drug-dealing occurring in public view, once in the presence of a child aged three, and some exchanges inside local shops.

'To a greater or lesser extent, all of you has been involved in peddling class A drugs or facilitating it in the local area.

'It's a wicked trade with a high price in misery,'

Speaking after the case, detective constable Matt Forrester said: 'Norwich is a lovely city, it's still got a good community spirit and as such the sort of anti-social behaviour that drug-dealing attracts doesn't go unnoticed.

'The public do have the confidence to speak to us, and as seen in this case we will act on it.'

The other two defendants are set to be sentenced at a later date.

Wandile Mirazi, 20, whose current address is HMP Norwich, is due in court where he also faces prosecution on other drugs charges.

Paul Andrews, 46, of Geoffrey Watling Way, Norwich, failed to show up to court yesterday and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.