A COURT has heard how members of a Liverpool criminal gang targeted scores of north Cumbrian addicts as they sought to peddle illegal drugs as part of a large scale “county lines” conspiracy.
Sixteen men and women – including 11 people with Cumbria addresses – played various roles in a plot to supply heroin and crack cocaine last year. During a period lasting almost six months, mobile phones were used to bombard scores of addicts with thousands of “text bombs” which advertised illegal drugs for sale.
“The key organiser and key players came from the Liverpool area,” prosecutor Tim Evans told Carlisle Crown Court at the start of a three-day sentencing hearing. “Once the drugs were in Cumbria they were distributed by Liverpool gang members assisted by a number of local Cumbrian residents.”
Those householders, he said, directly supplied drugs on behalf of the gang; stored them and allowed their homes to be used as a base for drug dealing; or helped in other ways, such as handing over crucial contacts lists for addicts or buying mobile phone top-ups.
“These types of drug supply operations are sometimes called ‘county lines’,” said Mr Evans. “They involve also ‘cuckooing’ – those from outside the county coming into in this case Carlisle and setting up a temporary nest there from which to set up a drug-dealing network.”
Thirteen defendants – including 35-year-old plot general Roy Hickman, of Churchdown Road, Liverpool – have admitted conspiracy to supply class A drugs. A further three were found guilty by jurors following a trial.
Today (TUES) lawyers representing the conspirators took it in turns to give mitigation, some speaking of how lives had been left in “ruins” as a result of illicit involvement.
Fifteen defendants are set to be sentenced at the crown court tomorrow, while one woman is due to receive her punishment later this year.