Cannabis gang jailed

02/08/2012

A gang involved in bringing nearly half a million pounds worth of cannabis from Coventry to East Hertfordshire and Essex were locked up on Thursday, 02 August 2012, for a total of 16 and a half years.

Police seized 48 and a half kilos of skunk cannabis in vacuum-packed bags after following a car that had left Coventry for Cheshunt and then ended up at Nazeing in Essex.

Two men from Herts - Ricky Clark and his cousin Anthony Byles - were arrested at Clark's father's home where the cannabis was being stored. The driver, James Ainsworth from Coventry, was stopped as he drove back up the M1. Inquiries continued and two other men from Coventry Robert Lines and James Smith were arrested, St Albans Crown Court was told.

All five men appeared in the dock. They were: Lines, 47, from Potters Green Road, Potters Green, Coventry; Clark, 35, of Wareside, Ware; Ainsworth, 46, of New Green Park, Wyken Croft, Coventry; Byles, 49, of Hobby Horse Close, Cheshunt, and Smith, 49, of Wareham Green, Walsgrave, Coventry.

Neil King for the Crown Prosecution Service said: "This conspiracy involved three men from Coventry - Lines, Smith and Ainsworth - supplying cannabis to cousins Byles and Clark.

"The drugs were brought down by Ainsworth on the instruction of Lines and Smith on 28 February last year to Byles' address in Cheshunt."

When they arrived at Cheshunt they drove off to Middle Street in Nazeing where Clark and Byles were storing the drugs in a wood shed.  The police swooped and arrested Clark and Byles. Clark was standing on a safe and had his head up in the rafters. Clark had £650 on him.

Ainsworth was stopped by the police as he drove back to Coventry on the M1. He had £295 on him.

Smith and Lines were arrested after being linked through telephone evidence. Mr King said: "The crown does not know the roles, but we say Lines and Smith had  leading role. Lines had a large home with a new kitchen and £7,000 cash was found in his car. Ainsworth was the courier acting at Smith's directions.

"Byles had links to Conventy and it was his house that the conspirators went to before going to Nazeing. Clark was summoned to Hobby Horse Close before going in convoy to Nazeing."

Mr King said the cannabis was "good skunk cannabis" worth £490,000.

All five men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cannabis. Clark admitted possessing a gas canister that was found in an old fridge in the front porch of his home. Lines also pleaded guilty to possessing 24.6 grams of cocaine.

For Lines, Belinda Ariss said there were several people above him in the chain who had not been caught. She said the former soldier has no previous convictions or cautions. He is married with two children and is supported in court by his wife, she said.

David Nuttall, for Smith said he suffered from debt after getting into mortgage arrears. He said he pleaded guilty at the earlier opportunity and feels remorse.

For Byles, Ruth Jones said others, higher up the drug chain, did not get their hands dirty. She said he had known the Coventry defendants since he was 11-years-old and is Ricky Clark's cousin. He has a strong work ethic and is a refuse collector for Haringay council, not having had a day off in 20-years. He is a hard-working family man, she said.

Justin Rouse, defending Clark, said he had been sentenced at the Old Bailey for a cocaine conspiracy, but had been released on licence. He had fallen into a bad circle at the end of 2010. He said he agreed to store the cannabis and was paid £650. He said Clark was the sole carer for his 6-year-old daughter, who is ill.

For Ainsworth, Kevin Saunders, said he was born in Coventry and and lived there all his life. He has always been a "grafter" working at the Peugeot plant before being made redundant and setting up in business as a tree surgeon. He had a friendship with James Smith and they played darts together in clubs. He said the evidence indicated he had not brought all of the cannabis down from Coventry that day. He said it was an isolated incident.

Judge Marie Catterson said: "It was a commercial operation dealing in highly valuable illegal drugs for a commercial profit motive."

She sentenced Lines to 4 and a half years, Smith to 4-years, Byles to 4-years, Clark to 2-years and Ainsworth to 2-years.

A confiscation hearing will be held at a later date against all of the defendants except Ainsworth.

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