[A] gang of drug dealers is one of the first in the country to be convicted for supplying NPS – formerly known as ‘legal highs’ – after an investigation by Northumbria Police.
On Friday twelve people were sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court following a number of raids across Newcastle in March.
They had been targeting vulnerable people in the city centre and supplying them with New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) – now known as ‘lethal highs’ – that left them in a zombified state.
Many of those taking the drugs were being targeted by the dealers and resorted to begging in the city centre to fund their addiction.
Northumbria Police launched an investigation into a number of suspects and used covert and undercover tactics to identify suppliers.
They then used new legislation introduced in December last year to carry out a series of raids at addresses across Newcastle to arrest them.
That activity saw more than 200 grams of psychoactive substances seized at just one address which had a street value of £2,000.
Each bag of product was branded with names such as ‘Spice’, ‘ Old Jamaican Extreme’ and ‘Alabama Wildfire’ alongside the wording: ‘Not for human consumption’.
In total eleven suspects were eventually charged in connection with supplying NPS in the city centre. Some were also charged with the supply of harder Class A drugs.
Now some members of the group have been jailed for as long as four years for charges linked to supply of the drugs formerly known as ‘legal highs’.
Speaking after sentencing, Newcastle city centre Chief Inspector Dave Pickett praised his officers for being proactive in their use of the new legislation.
He said: “I just want to say that Newcastle isn’t alone in having an issue with NPS and the effects that then has on people in the city centre.
“As a force we have been very proactive in our approach whether that be through releasing videos of the effects on users or by executing warrants to disrupt dealers.
“The fact that this is one of the first cases to come to court under the new NPS legislation should be a real plus point and should reassure the public that we are doing everything we can to tackle the use of such substances.
“Our officers have used a range of tactics available to them and gathered a huge amount of evidence that left the defendants with little choice but to plead guilty.
“Sgt Andy Percival and Sgt Fran Joyce in particular have carried out huge amounts of work to ensure that these individuals have been put behind bars.
“I am very happy that the judge has handed down custodial sentences and this should act as a real warning to those who are supplying NPS in our region.”
The sentencing comes just a day after charity Changing Lives launched a begging campaign in Newcastle which is supported by Newcastle City Council and Northumbria Police.
It was aimed around educating the public about why handing money to beggars may not be helping them but instead putting up a barrier to support services.
At that launch Chief Inspector Pickett talked about how beggars were being targeted by drug dealers and handing over hundreds of pounds to feed their addiction.
He said that police can help get those vulnerable people the support that they need by putting dealers such as those sentenced today behind bars.
Chief Inspector Pickett said: “This week I was down the road at Changing Lives talking about how we need to work with partners to give those people begging on the street the support they need.
“Nobody wants to see people slumped on a park bench in the city centre after taking these drugs, or see them begging on the street to fund their habit.
“Often these people are vulnerable themselves and stuck in a cycle that they can’t escape because they are being taken advantage of by drug dealers like those jailed today.
“By putting people like this before the court and taking the drugs they supply off the street, we can help make progress in getting those beggars into the relevant support services.
“This is just the first step but it shows we are making progress in cleaning up our city centre and safeguarding some of the most vulnerable in society.”
Darren Argent, 51, of Springfield Road, Cowgate, admitted two counts of conspiracy to supply NPS before and after it became illegal. He was jailed for two-and-a-half years.
Barry Ramsey, 27, of St Julian Gardens, Howdon, Wallsend, admitted two counts of conspiracy to supply NPS and being concerned in supplying heroin. He also admitted taking part in a distraction burglary on a 91-year-old in Jesmond and an affray. He was jailed for a total of four years.
John Hall, 32, of Wingrove Road, Newcastle, admitted two counts of conspiracy to supply NPS and supplying heroin. He was jailed for two years.
Reece Spearman, 21, of Hallow Drive, Throckley, admitted conspiracy to supply NPS. He also admitted a robbery of a teenager in Leazes Park. He was jailed for 19 months.
His twin, Ryan Spearman, 21, of Hallow Drive, Throckley, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply NPS. He also admitted two burglaries and aggravated vehicle taking. He was given 18 months suspended for 12 months with 240 hours unpaid work and a 12 month driving ban.
Louis Davison, 22, of Westgate Road, Newcastle, admitted conspiracy to supply NPS and affray. He was given 12 months suspended for 12 months with 180 hours unpaid work.
Nichola Day, 37, of Ladykirk Road, Newcastle, admitted two counts of conspiracy to supply NPS and was given six months suspended for 12 months.
Sarah Hankin, 24, of West View, Elswick, admitted supplying and offering to supply NPS. She was given a community order.
Daniel Macauley, 26, Of West View, Elswick, pleaded guilty to permitting his premises to be used for the supply of drugs and he was fined £250.
Kawsar Ahmed, 56, of New Bridge Street, Newcastle, admitted being concerned in the supply of NPS. He was fined £500.
Sean Kyle, 45, of Bentinck Terrace, Newcastle, admitted conspiracy to supply NPS. His case was adjourned until January for a drug rehabilitation assessment.
Steven Southam, 33, of Ripon Street, Roker, Sunderland, admitted two counts of conspiracy to supply NPS. He failed to attend court and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
As part of the investigation two of the defendants were also evicted for their homes after joint work between Newcastle City Council and Your Homes Newcastle.