Posted on Monday 12th September

An organised crime gang from Widnes are facing nearly 17 years behind bars after they pleaded guilty to drugs offences.

James Simmonds, 41, Lee Follon, 44, Colin Jones, 29, and Tracey Edwards, 37, were all arrested during a series of dawn raids at addresses across Widnes in spring 2015 as part of Operation Impact.

The raids were the culmination of several months' undercover work by the Cheshire Police Serious and Crime Operations unit and led to the recovery of nearly £500,000 worth of illegal Class A drugs, including cocaine and benzocaine, along with over £10,000 cash.

Following their arrest Jones, of Moorland Road, Widnes; Follon, of Albert Road, Widnes; Simmonds, Harris Street, Widnes; and Edwards, of Saxon Terrace, Widnes, were all charged with conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

The gang all appeared at Chester Crown Court, and as a result of the overwhelming evidence presented against them Jones, Follon and Simmonds all pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. Edwards pleaded guilty to the charge of allowing her Saxon Street home to be used for drug dealing.

On Friday 9 September the group all appeared at Warrington Crown Court where the Judge handed down sentences which totalled nearly 17 years, including an 8 year prison sentence for Jones, who was the ringleader of the group. Follon and Simmons were both jailed for 4 years 4 months and Edwards was handed a 12 month suspended sentence.

Following sentencing Detective Inspector Giles Pierce, said:  "I'm extremely pleased with the sentences that have been handed down by the Judge, and I hope this sends clear messages to other drugs crime will not be tolerated.

"This operation was the culmination of several months' hard work, and the fact that all of the offenders pleaded guilty shows the strength of the evidence that my team had gathered.

"Operation Impact shows the commitment that Cheshire Police has in targeting people who undermine our communities and bring misery to residents through their involvement in organised crime and illegal drugs.

Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner David Keane said: "I would like to thank every police officer and member of police staff involved in this operation. Their hard work has paid off and resulted in significant sentences for the defendants and has also removed a large quantity of Class A drugs from the streets of Cheshire.

"Drugs have a detrimental impact on our communities. Cheshire residents have told me that drugs are a key local issue for them and tackling the issue of drug misuse and supply is of the uppermost importance to me. I will be working with the Chief Constable to ensure the excellent work the Constabulary has undertaken continues."

Detective Inspector Pierce added: "Information from members of the public is vital in the fight against drug related crime and we would urge anyone with any information about suspected drug related activity in their area to get in touch.

"Anyone with any information is urged to call Cheshire Police on 101.  Information can also be passed on anonymously, via Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111."