Three county line drug dealers who operated between Merseyside and Barrow, have been jailed for a total of 14 years.
The three, Dean Knight, Cody McNulty and Helen Cairns, have all been found guilty of Conspiracy to Supply and/or Human Trafficking.
The sentences were delivered on August 20, after six weeks of trial proceedings at Preston Crown Court.
Knight was found guilty by jury of the offence of the Human Trafficking of two 14-year-old children, under the Modern-Day Slavery Act.
The 29-year-old of Station Road, Birkenhead, received six years imprisonment after pleading guilty to the offences of Conspiracy to Supply Heroin and Crack Cocaine.
He received four years imprisonment (concurrent) for Human Trafficking.
McNulty, 23, of Pembroke Court, Birkenhead, received four years imprisonment for Conspiracy to Supply Heroin and Crack Cocaine, as well as a further ten months imprisonment for the offence of being Concerned in the Supply of Cocaine.
McNulty plead not guilty to the conspiracy offences, but she was found to be guilty of the conspiracy offences by jury.
McNulty was found not guilty of Human Trafficking under the Modern Day Slavery Act.
36-year-old Cairns, Of Egerton Court, Barrow, received three years, seven months imprisonment, after pleading guilty to the charges of Conspiracy to Supply Heroin and Crack Cocaine.
The police investigation found that Knight travelled to Barrow in early January 2019.
It was shown that McNulty facilitated his travel on several occasions throughout the course of the drug dealing enterprise.
A drug dealing phone line called ‘Ben’ – a common method used in county lines – was set up by Knight.
Cairns, local to Barrow, was then recruited to facilitate the selling of the drugs locally.
The ‘Ben’ group identified and exploited two vulnerable Merseyside teenagers, trafficking them to Barrow to run the drugs around the town, and supply them to local users.
On January 24, local officers were in Egerton Court when they became suspicious of two teenagers, later identified as the victims of trafficking.
The victims were followed to Cairns’ flat, where Knight was found and arrested for drug supply and human trafficking offences. Cairns was arrested for her role later that same day.
Following these arrests, a complex police investigation took place, involving many of the Constabulary’s specialist policing units.
These units carry out vital investigative work unseen by the general public and include the Drugs Unit, Cyber and Digital Crime, Force Intelligence Bureaux, Safeguarding Team and Serious and Organised Crime Units.
Officers also worked closely with other police forces and partner agencies throughout the operation to identify vulnerable individuals, provide safeguarding, and to bring the offenders to justice.
The investigation resulted in the arrests of defendants on March 26, 2019, when warrants were executed by police at addresses across Merseyside.
A spokesperson from the South Drugs Unit said: “This group targeted two vulnerable children specifically due to their young age and moved them on more than one occasion between Liverpool and Barrow.
“They placed young lives in danger, just to provide themselves with a thin layer of protection from law enforcement. Sadly, some Barrow residents allowed these children to stay in their homes.
“Cumbria Police and its partners work together to keep Cumbria safe and protect the vulnerable.
“The Barrow sense of community spirit and willingness to protect vulnerable people, is vital in assisting police to arrest and prosecute abhorrent offenders such as these.
“Our request to communities is that they report suspicious activity as soon as possible where drug dealing and exploitation is concerned.
“Our message to drug dealers is that you will be caught, and you should expect to go to prison for a long time.
“The sentences are the result of some fantastic on-the-beat intuitive police work, teamed with many hours of unseen, covert investigative work that the public do not see.
“We hope that these sentences act as a deterrent for other offenders, as well as an invitation to the communities to continue to report on suspected drug dealing.”
Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said: “County lines is a growing problem, this is serious crime and we cannot be complacent about it.
“Additionally, all too often, these gangs are exploiting vulnerable young people to carry drugs and sell them in other parts of the country.
“These children are assumed to be missing and when they turn up out of their area, they get into trouble with the police and are often criminalised when in part they are also victims.”
Police made the statement: “County lines and any other drug dealers need to be really clear: Cumbria is not an easy option for your trade and the police in Cumbria have a strong record for catching those involved in this awful trade, they will continue to pursue anyone who deals in this destructive crime in our county.
“To anyone who is experiencing issues with substance abuse or addiction, there is an alternative to drug use and there are many people and organisations who want to help, you do not have to manage on your own.
“Local services such as Unity, The Well, CADAS and Women’s Community Matters all provide quality support for those looking to get out of the cycle of drug use and support is also available for friends, family members and communities during recovery.
“To anyone caught in addiction or who feels intimidated by drug dealers, speak to someone your GP, the Police or third sector organisations and they can point you to people who can help, together we can fight the harm caused by drugs.”
Police and partner agencies have implemented ongoing and easily accessible support for residents suffering from drug addiction via Egerton Court’s Wellbeing Hub.
To report any information relating to drug use or dealing, please contact police on 101, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call CrimeStoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
Always dial 999 in an emergency or if a crime is in progress.