UPDATED FULL REPORT: 60 arrested and 160 years worth of jail as Warwickshire Police hail success of Rugby drugs operation

Operation Laser
Operation Laser

THE sentencing of the final defendants, arrested last year by Warwickshire Police as part of Operation Laser, has brought the total years of sentences handed down to the defendants to more than 160 years

At Warwick Crown Court on Thursday May 17 Cleon Craig, 35, from Lea Crescent, Rugby, was sentenced to four years in jail. He had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to charges of conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine.

Also appearing for sentence was Conrad Dru Cooper, 42, from Worcester Street, Rugby, who had admitted a charge of conspiracy to supply heroin. He received a 12 month sentence, suspended for two years together with a 12 month supervision order.

On Tuesday May 22, Cheryl Powell 41-years, from Brownsover, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and was sentenced to an 18 month conditional discharge and on Wednesday, May 23 Chenice Ramsey, 18, of Craven Road, Rugby received an eight month sentence for conspiracy to supply crack cocaine.

They are among the last of a long line of defendants to appear before the Crown Court for sentencing following their arrest as part in Operation Laser, the largest operation of its kind, yet undertaken by Warwickshire Police targeting serious organised crime and the supply of controlled drugs which had resulted in a total of 60 arrests. Nearly all the defendants had pleaded guilty to their charges at earlier court appearances.

Speaking about the 160 years of sentences which had been imposed to those arrested and charged during the policing operation, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Nolan, the Senior Investigating Officer for Operatin Laser said: “It is immensely satisfying to know that the courts have supported this operation by giving sentences that will also serve as a deterrent to others.

“This type of criminality impacts on all levels of society and it is our intention to continue to work with communities and our partners to improve the quality of life of the residents of Warwickshire.

“Innocent members of our community suffered by finding their homes burgled and their property stolen by drug users. In addition many of these individuals, committing crime within their own communities are people who find themselves drawn into using drugs, and then find they cannot escape. Their lives become blighted by those who control their supply of drugs. It is the criminals who supply Class A controlled drugs to the drug users and who are the ones who benefit financially that we have seen being jailed in the past few weeks.”

Back ground to Operation Laser:

At shortly after 6am on Tuesday 8 November 2011, individuals from across Rugby, and further a field, found themselves receiving an unexpected wake-up call as 150 police officers and police staff began to put Operation Laser into action.

This was the start of the enforcement phase of an operation, which had been more than a year in the planning and involved more than 300 police officers, staff and volunteers from the Warwickshire force, assisted by colleagues from West Mercia Police and partner agencies. The aim of the operation was to arrest those individuals and groups who were involved in the supply and sale of Class A controlled drugs.

By the end of the day a total of 20 suspects had been arrested on suspicion of supplying Class A drugs or handling stolen property.

As daylight broke on 8 November other members of the Rugby community became aware of the massive policing operation that had been taking place that morning. Local safer Neighbourhood Team officers, assisted by volunteers had been busy posting hundreds of leaflets through letterboxes in the areas where the arrests had been made, to let the residents know about the early morning police action. Information was also uploaded onto social media sites including Facebook and Twitter. The media, who had accompanied the police to see the early morning raids, started broadcasting and publishing information about the arrests and carried interviews with some of the officers involved.

Elsewhere text messages pinged onto mobile phones and plasma screens carrying information about the arrests were displayed at key points around Rugby town.

In the weeks following further Operation Laser arrests took place, mostly in Rugby, but also in Coventry, Birmingham, Harrogate in North Yorkshire, in London and in Northampton. In total 60 people were arrested, making Operation Laser, the largest operation yet to be undertaken by Warwickshire Police.

Chief Inspector Andy Nolan explained: “Through Operation Laser we wanted to give a clear message to those involved in organised crime and the supply of drugs that Warwickshire Police isn’t prepared to allow them to harm our communities by operating here.

“We wanted to show that we can and we will disrupt serious and organised crime activity. By seizing the assets, which are raised through the supply of illegal drugs, we can cut the lifeline which enables serious and organised crime to operate in Warwickshire.

“We also wanted to show the residents of Rugby that by taking this action we can reduce crime in their neighbourhood. I ask that they continue to support our activity by giving us information about drugs supply and other criminality in the community

“As well as removing those who were controlling the supply of illegal drugs, we also wanted to make it clear that we were working closely with our partners to make sure treatment and support programmes were available to help those dependant on using drugs. By helping them to control and to kick their habit, our communities will benefit from lower levels of crime. We therefore ask that if you are aware of people using drugs then please encourage them to seek treatment.

“Operation Laser has been an unrivalled success, but the battle against serious organised crime will continue.

“We are continuing to gather information about those involved in the supply of illegal drugs, and we ask members of our communities to continue to contact us if they see or hear of anything which they feel we ought to know about. The information that they provide could be important in enabling the police to develop a case which could lead to the arrest and charge of someone involved in crime or supplying drugs.

Keith Newall, Community Safety Partnership Manager for Rugby, who worked closely with the police during Operation Laser said: “The length of the sentences that have been imposed by the court recognises the level of crime that was going on in Rugby. The sentences will give also the people of Rugby reassurance that their communities and the streets where they live are now safer places to live.

“In the weeks prior to Operation Laser last November, the police received many pieces of information from people in Rugby. For some this information may have seemed small and insignificant, but the police were able to use it to build a bigger picture. Members of the Rugby community can therefore reflect and should feel proud in the knowledge that they helped the police to make their communities safer and more stable with less crime.”

Victoria Jones, Senior Crown Prosecutor from the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service Complex Casework Unit said: “This has been one of them most complex and challenging cases that I have ever had to prosecute which involved organised drug dealing in and around Warwickshire.

“Organised gangs such as this one build criminal empires on the pain and suffering of others. I hope that these sentences send out a very clear messages to others that the CPS are working with our partners in the criminal justice system to ensure that such gangs are dismantled and dealt with robustly.

“Finally, I would like to pay my thanks to the police for putting forward to us a very strong investigation.”

Anyone with any information about suspicious or criminal activity in their neighbourhood can contact Warwickshire Police on the new non emergency number 101 or 01926 415000 or they can speak to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 where the information can be given anonymously.