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An organised crime gang in Southampton that sold cannabis and Class A drugs has been dismantled as part of a large-scale police operation which has seen Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary help change the law around antique gun sales.
The group’s ringleader Stanley Woods, 21, and 17 other members were sentenced between June 2022 and January 2023 at Southampton Crown Court for their part in the conspiracy, which took place from April 2019 to December 2020.
18 members of the gang received a combined 33 years and eight months in prison. The individual sentences received were as follows:
The police investigation began in April 2019 and was led by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit.
They worked with the Border Force and other agencies to seize cannabis which was being smuggled into the country using various postal companies and then being sold in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Dorset.
In total, officers seized:
Between April 2019 and November 2020, Woods (pictured) was importing the drugs from Europe, Canada and the US having them sent to his address and those of his associates, including his partner Jade Stubbs and her brother Luke.
Those drugs, primarily cannabis but also MDMA and cocaine, were distributed using various runners and the proceeds were then converted into Bitcoin in an attempt to conceal the proceeds.
On 28 October 2019, officers carried out a search warrant at Woods’ home address in Imperial Avenue, Southampton, and seized his mobile phone. His message history revealed his associates and the scale of the drugs supply network: the first pieces of the puzzle which officers were able to build on through further stop searches and other interventions of the individuals linked to Woods.
The police activity included the arrests of Daniel Sivyour on 8 April, 2020 and Tyler Williams and Zak Blake on 27 June, 2020 in Southampton.
Sivyour was stopped in a vehicle outside East Cowes and a large amount of cannabis was found inside. This led officers to search one of Sivyour’s properties in Springford Crescent, Southampton and they found a small cannabis farm inside. Messages on his phone revealed he had also been dealing cocaine.
Williams and Blake were in a vehicle that failed to stop for officers in The Avenue, Southampton, which led to a short police pursuit that ended with tactical contact. Cannabis, weighing scales, a mobile phone and £5,410 were seized at the time. A note with scientific analysis of the cannabis was also found which was identical to documents intercepted from other imported packages meant for Woods’ gang.
On November 17, 2021, police executed a series of search warrants resulting in the arrest of Stanley Woods and other gang members. Woods was then charged and remanded into custody.
With the vast majority pleading guilty to their crimes, Woods and his 17 associates were sentenced between June 2022 and Thursday, 26 January 2023, when Blake and Williams appeared before the judge.
During the investigation, officers discovered that Woods was exploiting a legal loophole to purchase antique guns that did not require a licence to own. He was then modifying them into working firearms with parts he legally purchased online.
Woods supplied firearms and drugs to his ‘employees’ and enticed children as young as 15 into his business who he armed with guns, crossbows and knives to protect the drugs sales empire he had built.
As soon as officers saw the loophole, they had to do something about it. They highlighted the case to the National Ballistics Intelligence Service who then used it as part of their submission to Government which led to a change in the law. As a result, from 22 September 2021, it became illegal for members of the public to own a variety of antique guns without a licence.
Several of these modified weapons were seized by officers in linked investigations and have now been destroyed.
When passing sentence, His Honour Judge Rowland said Woods was ‘fairly and squarely at the top’ of the operation and praised DC Swift from the Serious and Organised Crime Unit, who led the investigation, and his colleagues.
He said: “DC Swift and his team are to be commended for the painstaking work they undertook to apprehend these defendants and reveal the extent of the offending; over a million lines of data were examined.
“Little need be said about the misery caused by the supply of illegal drugs. This activity generates further crime with the interaction between criminal gangs.”
DC Swift said: “Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our officers, we have cut out an entire organised crime gang which was the root cause of so much drug related harm and serious violence in Southampton.
“Woods was once the kingpin of the operation and now he and his associates are behind bars, the city is a much safer place and their gang has been dismantled.
“This investigation has not only recovered a large amount of cannabis, it also recovered the monetary gains that Woods’ tried to hide in crypto currency.
“However, this case is about so much more than cannabis and cash – it is about tackling the violence and exploitation of vulnerable people that goes hand in hand with organised crime. This investigation has identified and removed children and vulnerable people from the drugs trade.
“We also exposed a loophole in the sale of firearms which we believe coincided with a spike in serious incidents involving guns in Southampton in 2020.
“The change in the law means that never again will criminal organisations be able to poison our communities with lethal weapons in the same way.”
Deputy Director of the Air Cargo Command at Border Force, Sam Bullimore said:
“Bringing down this criminal gang is the result of hard work and dedication from Border Force and the Serious and Organised Crime Unit, and is another key triumph in our work to secure the UK’s borders and prosecute those who seek to smuggle illegal drugs into the UK.
“Stopping drugs entering the UK is a core part of the government’s 10 year drug strategy to cut crime and save lives, and all those involved in this case can be proud of their outstanding efforts in preventing these illegal drugs from reaching our communities and destroying lives.”
Anyone with information about drug-related harm or weapons in their neighbourhood can contact Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary on 101, report online or call Crimestoppers 100% anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on their website.