Cannabis seized in major drugs swoop

Cannabis worth about �1m was found in a house in Lancashire
Cannabis worth about �1m was found in a house in Lancashire

A group of six men have appeared in court accused of being part of a drugs ring stretching across Northamptonshire, the Midlands, the North West and Northern Ireland.

The defendants appeared in court over the allegations for the first time, facing various drugs charges.

Paul Shannon was among the first to be charged at Corby Magistrates Court with conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. Northern-Ireland born Shannon, wearing a grey hoodie, appeared in the dock alongside Christopher Watson, who was charged with conspiracy to supply cannabis, a Class B drug.

HGV driver Nigel Long and taxi driver Trevor Jones were produced for a hearing in the same court yesterday afternoon. Both were charged with conspiracy to supply Class A and Class B drugs between June last year and this month.

Odd-job builder John Lumley joined the pair in the dock to face a charge of supplying Class B drugs during the same time as the other two.

Gary Sarson also appeared in court. He faced a charge of conspiracy to supply cannabis.

None of the defendants were asked to enter a plea at the hearings. All are due to appear together at Northampton Crown Court on July 1, where they are expected to enter pleas.

The arrests came about as part of Operation Canta – a lengthy police operation which used covert surveillance conducted by the East Midlands Special Operations Unit and the Organised Crime Branch of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

During the operation, in the north of the county, 20kg of cannabis resin was uncovered by officers in Wellingborough, marked with the Morrocan place name Ketama, on February 17. On the same day, 30 wraps of cocaine were found in a house in Havelock Street, Kettering.

On Tuesday this week 173kg of cannabis was found in linked properties in Lancashire, also marked with the word Ketama. The court was told a ‘conservative estimate’ of the street value of this haul of drugs alone was £1m.

A total of 46kg of herbal cannabis was recovered in Northern Ireland in October. In December another seizure of herbal cannabis totalling 26kg took place in the province.

In September last year, 2kg of herbal cannabis was seized from a courier travelling from Kettering to the North West, where it was stopped.