Jailing of drugs gang 'prevented bloody turf war'
Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Communities
Jailing of drug gang 'prevented bloody turf war'
Locking up a major drug dealing gang prevented a bloody turf war, a senior police officer said today.
The 'Donna Network' of Jamaican nationals was responsible for bringing crack cocaine to the North East of England for several years.
Their London-based leader Albert 'Papa' Thoms was jailed for 10 years today at Teesside Crown Court after admitting conspiracy to supply controlled drugs.
The 32-year-old violent gangster headed the conspiracy named by police after they found the name Donna in a number of addicts' mobile phones.
In reality 'Donna' was another Jamaican, Claudine Neil, 38, who was given a reduced sentence of just two years despite playing a major role in the network, because she agreed to give evidence against the gang.
She is now a protected witness and is unlikely to be deported back to the West Indies because of her endangered status as a supergrass.
Thoms and his gang moved in to Middlesbrough from where they controlled the supply of crack to the North East.
His operation made at least £1 million profit a year, and would have been likely to cause a turf war with local gangsters, police feared.
After sentence Detective Inspector Dave Lamplough, one of four officers commended for their work, said breaking up the gang could have prevented a huge increase in gun crime, like that seen in other UK cities.
He said: "This has certainly reduced the availability of crack cocaine in the region and there is evidence there has been a reduction in acquisitive crime.
"The availability of crack cocaine in this area was reasonably limited, so this group could have been one of the main suppliers.
"As time progressed it was inevitable that there would have been turf wars and increased violence."
Thoms' second in command Lloyd Ormsby, 33, from Kimberley House, Galbraith Street, London, received a seven-year sentence for conspiracy to supply drugs.
Major dealers Wycliffe Clarke, 37, of Briggeford Close, London, and Marcus Steadman, 30, of no fixed address and who was an escapee from HMP Sudbury at the time of the operation, were jailed for four years each.
Three Jamaican nationals, were handed community order sentences for their lesser roles in the conspiracy.
Cleveland Police orchestrated a raid involving 430 officers, some armed, across the country in April last year.
They had previously arrested a large number of middle-level dealers and waited to see if those involved higher up the chain would fill the vacuum.
Thoms and his gang fell into the trap, and were put under surveillance, sending couriers from Kings Cross to Darlington, then in taxis to Middlesbrough, where his dealers would supply other pushers in smaller towns.
Police seized more than £60,000 in cash and a large amount of crack during the raids, which targeted homes in Middlesbrough, London, Wolverhampton, North Yorkshire, Tyneside and Co Durham.
Judge Les Spittle told Thoms, a father-of-six: "I have to deal with you for your involvement in this evil trade.
"You were involving yourself in a substantial trade in drugs that cause untold misery to the people who are addicted to them."
After the sentencing, Chief Constable Sean Price of Cleveland Police said the force's operation had brought to justice those who "would bring such misery to the streets of Middlesbrough and the North East".
"I firmly believe that the dismantling of this drugs network from the top downwards has prevented the emergence of gun crime on the streets of Cleveland," he added.