Six people have been jailed for a total of 43 years for their involvement in a Class A drugs conspiracy in Gosport.
Officers from Hampshire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit investigated the group involved over a period of eight months, between 1 September 2018 and 1 May 2019.
During this period, officers seized heroin and crack cocaine with an estimated street value of £275,000, and cash in the region of £74,500.
The following people were charged in connection with the investigation and sentenced today:
Liam Whitnell, aged 37 years, formerly of HMP Dovegate. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs at Portsmouth Crown Court on Monday 1 March this year. Today he was given a 9 year prison sentence.
Rayhaan Hoque, aged 38 years, of Woolmore Street in Tower Hamlets, London. On Tuesday 23 March 2021, he was convicted of two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs following a trial at Portsmouth Crown Court. Today he was jailed for 10 years.
Luke Alan Goldsmith, aged 28 years, of Rambler Drive in Gosport. He pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs at Portsmouth Crown Court on Monday 22 February this year. Today he was jailed for 6 years.
John Edward Parham, aged 33 years, of The Crossways in Gosport. He pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs at Portsmouth Crown Court on Monday 22 February this year. Today he was jailed for 6 years.
Lance Burt, aged 22 years, of Bury Hall Lane in Gosport. He pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs at Portsmouth Crown Court on Monday 22 February this year. Today he was sentenced to three years for these offences, and a further two years for the charges of possession with intent to supply Class A drugs and acquiring criminal property, relating to offences committed on 30 April 2020.
Jacob James, aged 26 years, of Briar Close in Gosport. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, and one count of possession of criminal property, at Portsmouth Crown Court on Monday 1 March this year. Today he was jailed for 7 years.
A seventh defendant, Jack Zachary Darvill, aged 22 years, of Londesborough Road in Southsea, will be sentenced at a later date. He previously pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs at Portsmouth Crown Court on Monday 22 February this year.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard how the drugs operation was led by Liam Whitnell from his prison cell at HMP Dovegate where he managed to use illicit mobile phones to ensure the gang were active and collecting the Class A drugs for onward supply to vulnerable users.
During the police investigation, officers recovered mobile phones which identified that arrangements were made on 23 occasions for members of the group based in Hampshire to travel to London to meet Rayhaan Hoque where the drugs were collected.
The police investigation also identified 18 occasions where Hoque had travelled to Hampshire.
Drugs were then distributed in Hampshire by Goldsmith, Burt, Darvill, Parham and James.
Detective Constable Edward Wiggans, who led the investigation, said: “Goldsmith and Darvill were arrested early on in the investigation, and both found with supply level quantities of drugs.
“Parham’s address was searched in April 2019 where officers discovered Class A drugs in various stages of being prepared for onward supply, with cooking utensils containing traces of crack cocaine, and wraps of heroin and crack cocaine in bags ready to be sold on.
“On that same day, the address of James was searched where further wraps of crack cocaine and heroin were discovered, along with cash bundles totalling approximately £50,000.
“This case showed, through phone data, that this organised crime group carried out an operation to arrange and facilitate the collection and onward supply of Class A drugs to make profit for themselves, which was led by Liam Whitnell from behind bars.
“Officers involved in this case worked tirelessly to dismantle this sophisticated drugs conspiracy, and we are grateful for the support from the Prison Intelligence Teams who helped us identify the role that Whitnell played in this conspiracy.
“I am pleased that these seven men have all been convicted.”
Chief Inspector Mark Lewis, District Commander for Fareham and Gosport, said: “Tackling drug related harm is an absolute priority for us. We regularly carry out local enforcement in order to target those involved in the supply of Class A drugs and bring offenders to justice.
“The supply of drugs is often connected to other offences such as high levels of violence, or even the exploitation and abuse of vulnerable adults and children, which is why we take such a tough stance.
“The disruption of this gang is another of many recent successes for the district. Bringing offenders such as these to justice, and supporting vulnerable people, is a joint effort and we hope this result reassures the local community that police and partners are working hard to dismantle drugs supply networks.
“We continue to encourage anyone who has information about drugs supply in their neighbourhood to report this to police, as this helps us build up an evidential picture of the issues affecting your area.”
Clare Pearson, Serco Prison Director at HMP Dovegate, said: “Serco has worked closely with the police to achieve this successful prosecution and we are pleased at the outcome of this trial. We take all such crimes extremely seriously and we always work hard to eliminate illegal items such as phones and drugs being smuggled into the prison.”