Gang who flew drones carrying drugs into prisons jailed

Image source, West Midlands Police
Image caption,
L-R - top row - Payne, Smith, Rattray, Ferguson, Deakin, McDonough, L-R - bottom row - Hadlington, Tinker, Blewitt, Harrabin, Greaves, Millington

Seven members of a gang which used drones to fly more than £500,000 worth of drugs into prisons have been jailed.

The gang was responsible for 55 drone deliveries into prisons around the country between April 2016 and June 2017.

Police described the drone conspiracy as the "biggest ever seen" in the UK.

The men were sentenced for between three and 10 years and five other gang members were given suspended sentences at Birmingham Crown Court earlier.

Image source, West Midlands Police
Image caption,
The ringleader Lee Anslow has been jailed for 10 years

Increase in self-harm

The gang flew an estimated £550,000 worth of drugs - mainly cannabis and synthetic cannabis - along with amphetamines, crack cocaine and heroin to inmates' windows, West Midlands Police said.

Prisons in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Worcestershire, Warrington, Lancashire and Liverpool were targeted.

Passing sentence on the 13 defendants convicted of conspiracy charges, Judge Simon Drew QC said: "This was a sophisticated commercial operation and due to the high value placed on drugs and mobile phones in prisons, designed to make those of you who ran the operation hundreds of thousands of pounds in profit."

Media caption,
HMP Wymott, in Lancashire, was one of seven prisons targeted by the group

Drug and mobile phone use in prisons had caused heightened levels of violence, an increase in self-harm and deaths, as well as allowing witness intimidation and illegal financial transactions, Judge Drew added.

Det Insp Gareth Williams from the Prison Investigation Team said: "This is a landmark case: It's the biggest drone drug smuggling racket into prisons ever seen in the UK."

Describing how the gang worked he said a drone flier, assisted by one or two others, would speak to an inmate on a contraband phone to guide a drone into prison where the attached parcel would be hooked off using sticks.

Image caption,
The group are accused of using drones to drop drugs, mobile phones and Sim cards into prisons

The gang sentenced

  • Ringleader Lee Anslow, 31, who was serving a sentence at HMP Hewell, was jailed for 10 years
  • Paul Payne, 33, of Broad Street, Coseley, West Midlands, was jailed for three years and eight months
  • Justin Millington, 24, of no fixed address, was jailed for three years and four months
  • Drone pilot Brandon Smith, 24, of Kingsbury Road, Tipton, was jailed for seven years
  • Shane Hadlington, 29, of Sycamore Lodge, Oldbury, was sentenced to four years and three months
  • HMP Risley inmate Paul Ferguson, 38, was jailed for four years and nine months
  • Stefan Rattray, 28, also a serving prisoner, was jailed for four-and-a-half years
  • Stella Deakin, 41, of Boundary Hill, Dudley, received a suspended six-month prison term
  • Callum McDonough, 25, of Shenley Fields Road, Selly Oak, Birmingham, received a suspended six-month prison term
  • Jake Blewitt, 21, of Highfield Road, Tipton, received a suspended six-month prison term
  • Dwayne Tinker, 21, of Lindridge Drive, Minworth, West Midlands, received a suspended six-month prison term
  • Richard Harrabin, 28, of Perton Grove, Weoley Castle, Birmingham, was given a one year and six months suspended sentence
  • Ryan Greaves, 21, of Kimberley Walk, Minworth, was given a 12-month community order
  • Two other men are due to be sentenced next month.

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