One of the UK's biggest county lines child exploitation operations sees total of 124 years of jail time handed out
An investigation which has resulted in 19 people being convicted and a total of 124 years and four months of jail time being handed out is one of the UK’s biggest county lines child exploitation operations.
In June 2019, more than 250 officers took part in Operation Serpent - a three-day intelligence-led operation during which police executed simultaneous warrants targeting multiple addresses in Kettering and north-west London.
The aim was to target an organised crime group suspected of actively recruiting and grooming children in Northamptonshire to facilitate class A drug dealing.
The first day of enforcement activity, involving more than 100 Northamptonshire Police officers, assisted by the Met Police, took place in northwest London when five warrants were served in Hillingdon and Ealing. A number of arrests were made and £5,000 in cash as well as Class A and B drugs, knives and a corrosive substance were also seized as part of subsequent searches of the addresses.
The next day, officers, supported by specialist dog handlers and search teams, struck at a number of addresses in Kettering with all eight target suspects arrested by officers.
And on day three, warrants were executed at four more Kettering addresses and one in Thrapston, leading to the arrests of seven more people.
All 19 people charged in connection with the operation were sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court, receiving a total of 124 years in jail.
This was an outstanding operation led by Detective Inspector Alan Rooney and thanks to his hard work, Northamptonshire Police secured its first convictions for child exploitation in this county.
More than 20 years in prison for St. David's gang
An investigation led by the Northampton Neighbourhood Team has resulted in more than 20 years in prison for a Northampton gang who were so notorious that residents in the local area were afraid to leave their homes, even to “clap for carers”.
Kray Daniel Stewart, 20, previously of Northampton, Jamie Hobbs, 23, previously of Northampton, Kaylun Charlie Jermaine Smalley, 25, previously of Northampton, Carl Alan Richardson, 51, previously of Northampton, and Jerome Taylor, 20, of Morris Road, Northampton, were all involved in the supply of drugs in the St. David’s area of Northampton.
Largely operating out of an address in Drayton Walk, the gang were using vulnerable local children as lookouts and runners. They used high levels of violence to run their business - carrying weapons and committing criminal damage and arsons in order to intimidate residents.
This intimidation and anti-social behaviour became so bad that some residents felt too unsafe to go outside, even on Thursdays during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic when everyone was “clapping for carers”.
As a response to their criminality, the Northampton Neighbourhood Team launched Operation Eagle - a lengthy investigation with the aim of securing enough evidence in order to put the gang behind bars.
On February 5, 2020, the first warrant was executed at the Drayton Walk address where a significant amount of heroin and cannabis was seized, along with cash, phones and weapons. That didn’t stop the gang though and a second warrant executed on March 25, 2020, uncovered more Class A drugs, weapons and cash.
On April 18, 2020, Stewart and Smalley were arrested after a dangerous seven-mile pursuit through Northampton, ending with a sting in the village of Holcot. Inside the Ford Fiesta was a dealer list for drugs and a significant mobile phone used by the group was seized.
The third and final warrant at the Drayton Walk address was conducted on April 22, 2020, with more Class A drugs, weapons and cash seized, and the day after, a Closure Order was completed, meaning the flat was no longer able to be used by the gang.
But enforcement continued, and on May 12, 2020, another warrant was conducted at Stewart’s address in Bondfield Avenue, St David’s, with a large quantity of heroin, crack cocaine, cash, weapons and phones all discovered.
As a result, Stewart, Hobbs, Smalley, Richardson and Taylor were charged with numerous drugs offences including conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs. All five maintained their innocence until months later when they had sight of the amount of evidence presented against them.
In light of this, Hobbs, Stewart, Smalley and Richardson pleaded guilty to the conspiracy offence with Taylor admitting to the offence of possession with intent to supply Class B drugs.
On December 16, 2021, Stewart was sentenced to seven years and six months, Hobbs to seven years and seven months, Smalley to four years, Richardson to two years and five months, and Taylor was handed a one year and nine month suspended sentence.
Neighbourhood Policing Inspector Andy Blaize, said: “In my 27-year policing career, this is without doubt, the best Neighbourhood Policing investigation I have ever seen.”