Three Men Sentenced Over Leeds Spice Dealing Operation.
Thursday, September 26, 2019
Three men behind a large-scale drug dealing operation supplying the synthetic cannabinoid Spice onto the streets of Leeds have been sentenced today.
Specialist officers from Leeds District Serious Organised Crime Unit uncovered their criminal enterprise after being brought in to target dealers as part of wider work to tackle the use of Spice and associated anti-social behaviour impacting on the city centre and on vulnerable street users.
Weeks of investigation culminated in drugs warrants being executed at two neighbouring flats in one property in St Wilfrid’s Avenue, Harehills, in September last year.
Officers recovered Spice with a street value of about £30,000 along with other evidence of drug dealing.
A large metal security grille had been fitted to the main front door to the address through which users were supplied. A bundle of dealer bags of Spice was found on the stairs within easy reach.
In one flat officers found three bin bags of loose Spice along with 410 self-seal bags of the drug. Weapons, including an axe, sword and meat cleaver, were on hand in the living room.
Similar weapons and two electric stun guns were found in the neighbouring flat along with £2,000 cash, scales, mobile phones, and cannabis worth about £500.
Luke Houghton, aged 31, and Joshua Sinden, aged 23, had been found in the flats and were arrested for drugs supply offences.
A further warrant was executed at a linked address in nearby St Wilfrid’s Garth and items used in the production of Spice were recovered. These included 119-grams of Spice powder, marshmallow leaf, which the drug is sprayed onto to be smoked, and acetone which is used in the process.
While officers were searching the flats in St Wilfrid’s Avenue a number of drug users, some with money in their hands, called asking for the occupants but left quickly when the officers identified themselves as police.
Two cars parked in St Wilfrid’s Garth were identified as being linked to the investigation and while officers were awaiting their recovery they were approached by a third suspect, 31-year-old Mark Baxter, in another car.
He initially drove off when officers approached him but returned a short time later and was arrested for drugs supply offences.
A set of electronic scales were found in a search of Baxter’s home in North Way. They showed traces of Spice when forensically tested.
Further warrants were executed at the men’s addresses in January this year resulting in the recovery of further amounts of Spice, worth between £6,000 and £10,000.
The three were subsequently charged with conspiracy to supply a Class B drug. Houghton was also charged with production of a Class B drug.
They pleaded guilty at a hearing at Leeds Crown Court in July.
Houghton, of St Wilfrid’s Garth, Leeds, was jailed for five years and five months; Baxter, of North Way, Leeds, was sentenced to two years and eight months imprisonment; and Sinden, of no fixed address, was given 21 months, suspended for two years.
Detective Inspector Phil Jackson, of Leeds District CID, said: “These men were involved in a large-scale drug-dealing operation that played a significant part in flooding the streets of Leeds with Spice.
“As part of wider work to tackle the problem, we deployed specialist officers to the city centre where they used a range of tactics to identify those involved in the supply of the drug to users.
“Over a period of weeks they painstakingly built up a comprehensive picture of those involved which provided the basis for the successful warrants at their addresses and the significant seizures of Spice along with other evidence of widespread dealing.
“We hope the sentences these men have received will provide some reassurance to the community and send a very clear warning to others of the penalties they can expect if they involve themselves in this criminal trade.”
Chief Inspector Richard Padwell, who heads neighbourhood policing for Leeds city centre, said: “Psychoactive substances like Spice present real dangers to users, many of whom are some of the most vulnerable members of society frequenting the streets of the city centre.
“Like many other cities, we were seeing a stark and visible increase in the number of incidents related to the use of this drug on the streets and recognised the need for a comprehensive partnership approach to tackle it.
“The successful work by our Serious Organised Crime Unit to tackle those dealing Spice has been just one part of our approach.
“We continue to be acutely aware of the vulnerability of those who are using this drug on the streets who often have a variety of complex needs.
“The work of the Street Support Team, which brings together the police and a range of key partner agencies, continues to target the underlying issues such as homelessness, rough sleeping and addiction, as well as the crime and anti-social behaviour that is often linked to the use of Spice.
“At the same time, we recognise that everyone has the right to feel safe where they live, work and socialise, and the police and our partner agencies will continue to take the issue very seriously and are committed to doing everything we can to address the problem.”