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Monday, 24 November 2014

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Drug deaths: West Cumbria third worst area in UK

A top Carlisle judge has hit out at the “appalling detrimental effect” of cocaine and mephedrone on socially deprived areas of west Cumbria.

Judge Batty photo
Judge Paul Batty QC

Judge Paul Batty QC was speaking during the sentencing of a gang that flooded Cumbria’s streets with cocaine and mephedrone.

Gang members – from Carlisle, west Cumbria, Kendal and St Helens – were jailed at the crown court for nearly 50 years last week.

The gang was brought crashing down by a squad of detectives who snared the ring and put an end to the dealing in two undercover operations named Silkworm and Adder.

In a statement read to the court, Detective Inspector Mike Brown from Cumbria police’s serious and organised crime squad said that west Cumbria had the third highest annual death rate for all drug-related deaths (17.3 per 100,000 population) in 2006. The statistics - the latest available - are recorded by the International Centre for Drug Policy at St George’s University of London.

Judge Batty said: “Cocaine has been a big problem in west Cumbria and it has had a corrosive effect on the lives of those who have become addicts.”

Police say Cumbria is a county with a low level of crime but the cocaine problem “in the past” has been “extremely significant”.

Mephedrone, which comes in white powder form and is snorted, affects the body in a similar way to cocaine and ecstasy. It can cause anxiety, heart palpitations and convulsions.

Police say the drug is illegal to sell if advertised for human consumption.

But suppliers, like the gang sentenced on Friday, were selling it as plant fertiliser or bath salts.

Judge Batty said: “Mephedrone is a relatively new drug which has had devastating effects on the people’s lives.

“One of the men I sentenced for possessing mephedrone was Andrew Robinson from Whitehaven (nine months suspended for two years). He had become addicted to mephedrone.

“Mephedrone was criminalised in 2010 and classified as a class B drug.”

DI Brown said it was “too early to say” what impact the jailing of the criminal gang would have.

He said: “It may dent it for a while but there are always people willing to step into the breach. We need to bang home the message that drug dealing and supplying will not be tolerated. You will get found out.

“One thing we will be doing is looking at figures to see if there has been a drop in crime. The gang that was sentenced on Friday were arrested in May.”

The team that helped nail the gang were praised in court – especially Detective Chief Inspector Paul Duhig, DI Brown and officers from the serious and organised crime unit.

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