Operation Clubman – finding those responsible for drug supply
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It was an operation to target the supply of drugs in the area – which has resulted in more than 30 people being convicted. This is the story of Operation Clubman.
For the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) team, finding those responsible for the supply and distribution of drugs is among their top priorities, but it is also a priority which brings with it many challenges and complexities.
So, when intel led to the team launching Operation Clubman in July 2019, officers knew that a large-scale investigation lay ahead.
On Friday 26 May, following more than three years of dedicated work the final court hearing took place – with a total of 39 people now being sentenced as part of the operation.
During the investigation six kgs of cocaine, 11.5 kgs of cannabis and more than 600 cannabis plants were seized.
Video highlighting a four-year drugs operation - codenamed Operation Clubman.
EMSOU is a collaboration between the five forces of the East Midlands set up to tackle the most violent, serious and organised criminals in the region. Recalling the launch of the operation, Detective Inspector Lee Hunt said: “During the initial stages of our research into the supply of drugs on our patch we had no idea of the scale and reach of it – it wasn’t just contained with the force area but far wider.
“The very nature of this type of organised criminality is that there are no borders. Those involved in the supply and distribution of illicit drugs will go wherever the demand is.”
The investigation would lead the team across the country and in July 2019 warrants were executed at numerous addresses in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Liverpool.
It was following these warrants and arrests of more than 65 people however that the work really began.
A team of detectives and civilian investigators based with the East Midlands Special Operations Unit worked tirelessly to collate the evidence including carrying out numerous interviews, completing more than 1100 statements, analysing more than 3500 pieces of evidence and carrying out a number of lines of enquiry.
Following months of work collating the evidence, it was all submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider charges – with charges being made against the vast majority of those arrested for various drug-related offences.
The work continued for the team preparing for legal proceedings and collating further information for the prosecution. This included audio/visual material and telephone records showing the exchange of calls and messages between the defendants - all obtained during the initial stages of the research and during the crucial hours in custody.
With the large number of defendants and the complexities of the case, the court hearings would be split across five trials.
And by February 2021 a total of more than 100 years imprisonment had been handed out to 22 of the defendats. This included Ashley Boyd, Clint Jones and Kevin Duncalf.
(Pictured top left to right - Benjamin Miller, Shane Whitfield, Phillip Warren, middle left to right: Ashley Boyd, Ashley Sharpe, bottom Left to right: Florian Isufaj, Richard Elton, Clint Jones)
The investigation had identified Boyd and Jones as the brains behind the business-like operation. Both men were part of an organised criminal network, dealing drugs and making money from the misery of drugs.
Duncalf had supplied cocaine from Liverpool while he was wanted by another police force for unrelated matters. The fact he was wanted didn’t deter him from continuing with his life of crime. When he was arrested officers found recordings on his mobile showing his lifestyle, including staying in hotels counting large sums of money on a cash counting machine.
DI Lee Hunt said: “These individuals thought they were untouchable and believed their life of criminality could continue unseen from the eyes of the law but that wasn’t to be. The scale of their offending couldn’t go unnoticed forever and it was only a matter of time before they hit our radar.
“The evidence against them saw the majority of defendants pleading guilty at their initial hearings or midway through their trials, and getting significant sentences at crown court. That group was just some of the many of those who made their way to crown court in the proceeding months and jailed for their part in the operation.”
Following the final hearing this month, 39 people have been convicted with in excess of 165 years imprisonment being imposed during seven sentence hearings. Individual sentences have ranged from 12 months to 16 years. Some defendants were issued with suspended sentences or ordered to carry out unpaid work within the community.
And the work is still continuing as enquiries remain ongoing to seize any assets the defendants may have accumulated through their life of crime by using powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).
POCA orders will be submitted to the courts and requests made to obtain cash, cars, property and any items of value. If criminals fail to pay the value of the order they can have additional years added to their existing sentences.
DI Hunt said: “While it is rewarding to be able to inform communities of successful operations such as this, we are of course in no way complacent as we know there is always someone waiting to the fill the gap left by others. But we will always continue in our efforts to stop the misuse of drugs and carry out further operations of this nature to disrupt criminal activity that we know is happening on our streets.
“Please do continue to work with us and help us by informing us of any knowledge you have so that we can act on it. We urge you to report any information you have about drugs misuse and offending or organised criminality – your suspicions could just be the lead we need to take our enquiries further and launch our next operation.”
You can report online at www.leics.police.uk or by calling 101. Always call 999 in an emergency.