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County line drugs: 33 sentenced after Barrow deaths spark probe

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image copyrightCumbria Police
image captionMichael Emeofa as described as the head of the network

Thirty-three people who were part of a "county lines" drug dealing operation have been sentenced.

Arrests were made in London, Coventry and Barrow as part of Operation Horizon, which was prompted by 12 drug related deaths in the Barrow area in 2017.

Cumbria Police said it had dismantled a network trafficking drugs to an area "blighted" by substance abuse.

Those sentenced received terms ranging from a few weeks to nine years.

So-called county lines cases see urban gangs expanding their drug dealing activities into rural areas, often using young people as mules.

Michael Emeofa, 22, of Bromley Road, London, was detained for nine years after admitting conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Preston Crown Court heard he was the head of the network, who used addresses in London and Coventry to package and prepare significant quantities of drugs.

Among his recruits were two vulnerable teenagers - one of whom had been reported missing from local authority accommodation in London - who were trafficked to run drugs into Barrow.

image captionArrests were made in Barrow and other areas

The others sentenced were aged between 19 and 49 and from areas including Barrow, Birkenhead, Coventry and London.

Their roles ranged from taking mobile phone orders and distributing the drugs, to delivering them to addicts on the streets.

Det Ch Supt Dean Holden, of Cumbria Police, described the investigation as "challenging and complex".

He said: "It involved months of planning and the kind of vital, unseen police work that goes on around-the-clock all-year-long, but which the public is perhaps not as aware of.

"The determination, tenacity and skill of all those involved led to a major victory in the battle against county lines drugs criminals in Cumbria."

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