Drugs gang flooded East Midlands with cannabis

The drugs gang has been jailed for more than 15 years.
The drugs gang has been jailed for more than 15 years.

Five men have been jailed for a total of more than 15 years for cannabis offences.

In June 2013, police launched an investigation into suspected large-scale production and suply of of cannabis in the East Midlands.

In February 2014, warrants were executed at premises in Derbyshire and Lincolnshire and six suspects were arrested.

Lee Winterburn, 36, of Fulmar Close, Mickleover, Philip Spence, 53, of Edmunds Square, Mickleover, Christian Andrews, 43, of Mill Street, Ilkeston, Joseph Cook, 63, of Randall Bank, Moulton Chapel, James McAra, 71, of Windmill Avenue, Kilburn, and Ross Strickland, 20, of Tiree Close, Sinfin, were later charged with offences connected with the production and supply of cannabis.

The police investigation identified two locations where cannabis had been grown. Both premises were capable of producing cannabis on a commercial scale.

One of the premises was the home of Cook and his family in Moulton Chapel; the other was a unit rented by Winterburn at a farm in Hollington.

Police enquiries proved that the defendants travelled from Derbyshire to Lincolnshire between June 2013 and February 2014, during which at least three cannabis crops had been produced.

In November 2013, Winterburn, Spence, Philips and Strickland all travelled from Derbyshire to Moulton Chapel. Later that day they travelled back to the Travellers Rest pub in Derby where Winterburn supplied McAra with three kilogrammes of cannabis.

This cannabis was later described by a drugs expert as being fresh and having come direct from the producer. During a search of McAra’s home, several thousands of pounds were also recovered.

At a unit at the farm near Hollington a lorry container containing a cannabis grow and an isolated ‘mother plant’ were discovered. This grow consisted of more than 60 plants which could have produced cannabis worth up to £52,920.

A sophisticated grow was discovered in Lincolnshire comprising a separate nursery area, a growing room and a preparation area. This grow consisted of 349 plants, capable of producing cannabis worth up to £293,160.

Warrants were also executed at the homes of Winterburn, Andrews and Spence. Various items were also recovered that further evidenced their involvement in the supply of cannabis.

Detective Inspector Andy Jones, from the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, said: “This was a large-scale criminal enterprise run by an organised crime group to produce and supply cannabis throughout the East Midlands.”

All the defendants pleaded guilty and five were sentenced at Derby Crown Court yesterday.

Winterburn was sentenced to three years and four months for conspiracy to produce cannabis and conspiracy to supply cannabis

Andrews was jailed for two years and eight months for conspiracy to produce cannabis and conspiracy to supply cannabis.

Spence was sentenced to four years and eight months for conspiracy to produce cannabis and conspiracy to supply cannabis.

McAra was jailed for four years for conspiracy to supply cannabis.

Strickland was sentenced to one year and ten months for conspiracy to supply cannabis.

Cook is due to be sentenced at a later date for conspiracy to produce cannabis.