Prison terms cut for £2.5m drugs gang

Peter Bowden
Peter Bowden
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Five Fylde Coast gang members responsible for flooding the North West with drugs have had their jail terms cut.

They were among nine members of the organised crime gang operating from a drugs lab in Blackpool.

Craig Rooks

Craig Rooks

Police seized £2.25m of drugs – cannabis, mephedrone, cocaine and amphetamine – during a series of raids as part of a massive investigation into the supply chain on the Fylde Coast and in other areas.

The 22-strong gang were all handed tough sentences at Preston Crown Court in August 2013, after admitting a variety of offences.

But nine members – including ringleaders Peter Bowden, of the Glades, Lytham, Craig Rooks, of Division Lane, Marton, and Gordon George Waters, of Clifton Drive, South Shore – have now had their sentences cut by judges sitting at London’s Criminal Appeal Court.

The court heard the gang was arrested following a complex three-year investigation by the Serious and Organised Crime Unit.

Gordon Waters

Gordon Waters

The investigation, codenamed Sabine, uncovered a sophisticated criminal enterprise to import and distribute drugs which included smuggling mephedrone into the UK from China and cocaine from Holland.

Officers seized more than five kilos of cocaine with a street value of more than £550,000, mephedrone worth £1.8m, more than 15 kilos of amphetamine worth £150,000, and two kilos of skunk cannabis worth £25,000. They also found drug-dealing paraphernalia after raiding two industrial units at Back Ashburton Road and Leamington Road, North Shore, which were used as a laboratory for storing and cutting drugs.

Lawyers for the nine gang members argued their jail terms were ‘too long’ given their roles in the plot and their personal mitigation.

Reducing the sentences, Lady Justice Macur, sitting with Mr Justice Phillips and Judge Neil Ford QC, said the terms were ‘excessive’.

Bowden, 44, was jailed for 15 years after admitting one conspiracy to supply class A drugs and three conspiracies to supply class B drugs. His term was slashed to nine-and-a-half years.

Rooks, 47, was jailed for 10 years after admitting the same charges as Bowden. His term was cut to eight-and-a-half years.

Gordon George Waters, 46, of Clifton Drive, Blackpool, was jailed for 10 years and eight months after admitting two conspiracies to supply class B drugs and one of drug smuggling. His term was cut to seven years and nine months.

Aaron Pitts, 37, of Whitegate Drive, Blackpool, was jailed for five years and eight months after admitting the same offences as Murphy. His sentence was cut to three years nine months.

Jonathan Booth, 48, of Valentia Road, North Shore, admitted smuggling and was jailed for two years. His jail term was reduced to 18 months.

Mark Anthony McDonald, 31, of Prenton, Birkenhead, had his sentenced reduced from four years and one month to three years.

James Benjamin Harding, 23, of Ulton, in Hampshire, was jailed for nine years and eight months but his term was reduced to seven years on 

George Leon Joseph Murphy, 44, of New Hall Lane, Preston, had his six-year sentence reduced to four years.

Glenn Knight, 27, of Wallasey, Wirral, had his sentence reduced to three years.

The judges dismissed an appeal by William Thomas McComb, 53, of Birkenhead, Wirral, who was jailed for six years and nine months for conspiracy to supply class A drugs.