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Operation Karate drugs bust leads to 19 charges
NINETEEN men have been charged with drug offences following a high profile drugs operation in Northwich and Merseyside.
The 19 men, who were arrested last Wednesday as part of Operation Karate, appeared before Chester Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.
They were arrested as part of a series of dawn raids to target the suspected use and supply of drugs in Northwich and Merseyside.
More than 300 officers were involved in the operation and executed drugs raids and searches at 23 premises across Northwich, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Dyfed Powys.
Suspected Class A drugs and cash were seized from the properties.
A total of 21 people were arrested although one man was released without charge while another was released on police bail pending further enquiries.
At court on Thursday, Paul Christopher Taylor, 38, of Harrisons Place, Northwich and Mark Duffy, 28, of Oldershaw Drive, Manchester, pleaded guilty to supplying Class A drugs.
They were remanded in custody and will be sentenced at Chester Crown Court later this year.
Seventeen other men have been charged with supplying class A drugs.
Eight men have been remanded in custody to appear at Chester Crown Court at a later date, while seven have been bailed to appear at the same court.
The eight men remanded into custody are: Michael Smith, 37, of Romanes Street; Mark Colin Higgins, 37, of Beeston Street; Peter Gibson, 53, of Highfield Place; Craig Frederick Wright, 40, of St Johns Close, Rudheath; Jervis Roy Bailey, 33, of Lymmington Drive, Manchester; Tony Robert Bloor, 34, of Redesmere Close; Neil Morris, 30, of Dimond Street, Pembrokeshire and Matthew Kenneth Evans, 18, of Victoria Road.
The seven men released on bail are: Scott Powell, 19, of Needham Road, Liverpool; Steven Harry Gibson, 55, Chester Road, Castle; Michael Thomas Barrow, 28, of Church Road; Michael Collier, 31, of Knowsley Heights, Huyton; Mark Paul Melia, 40, of Stockbridge Village, Liverpool; Anthony Barlow, 47, of Stockbridge Village, Liverpool and Mark Anthony Zakrewski, 30, of Chester Road.
Two men – Simon Edwards, 32, of Chester Road, and Dean Purvis, 23, of Oxton Street, Walton, failed to appear at court.
OPERATION Karate was carried out after 18 months of planning and was coordinated by officers from Northwich Neighbourhood Policing Unit and supported by colleagues from Greater Manchester and Merseyside Police.
Teams of officers and PCSOs, supported by specialist units including police dogs and crime scene investigators, stormed the target properties just after 6am on Wednesday, May 15.
Assistant Chief Constable Ruth Purdie praised the efforts of the officers and staff who contributed to the success of Operation Karate.
She said: “Tackling the supply of drugs is a priority for Cheshire Police and Operation Karate reinforces that commitment.
“Wednesday was a culmination of a significant amount of hard work and dedication by all involved – all of whom are committed to helping rid our towns and villages of drugs and the associated blight on the lives of local residents.”
Speaking after Wednesday’s raids, Chief Inspector Richard Rees said: “The co-ordinated strike phase is the result of the hard work and dedication of officers and staff working over a lengthy period to gather intelligence and evidence on those suspected of being involved in illegal drugs activity in our towns. The majority of these arrests have been carried out as a result of information that has been passed on by the community.
“Illegal drugs can have a significant impact on communities. It is an issue we have always taken extremely seriously and we devote all the resources we can to tracing those responsible for drug use and supply to help improve the quality of life for our residents affected by this type of criminality. Similarly, for those arrested and processed through the criminal justice system, the constabulary will do all we can to ensure justice is served while offering individuals the opportunity to rehabilitate and seek support for their drug problem.”
Representatives from partner agencies including local housing associations were also involved in the operation.
Jackie Hodgson, housing manager for Weaver Vale Housing Trust, said: “Our customers have made it clear they do not want drug-dealers living in their neighbourhood. Over the past year four tenants have been evicted from their trust home as a result of drug related activity, one in Northwich, two in Winsford and one in Frodsham.
“Convictions resulting from Operation Karate will be followed up with legal action by the trust and more tenants may well lose their homes as a result of drugs activities.”
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Margaret Ollerenshaw also attended last week’s raid.
She said: “I think it is an extremely well thought out and excellent operation and we are taking out people who wreck people’s lives.”
Following the execution of warrants, local neighbourhood officers have been carrying out high-visibility patrols to offer reassurance to local residents and address any concerns they may have.
Inspector Paul Loughlin, of Northwich NPT, said: “In the coming days and weeks we will be following on and our officers will be out reassuring Northwich residents. All of the local PCSOs will be giving leaflets out telling people what we have been doing and what we will be doing going forward.
“The next step is to reassure people so they feel safe.”
Chief Inspector Rees added: “It is important that we continue to work in partnership with local people and other agencies to ensure that all the knock-on effects on drugs misuse are dealt with. We cannot stress how important information from members of the public is in the fight against drug related crime.”
Anyone with any information about drug-related activity in Cheshire is urged to call Cheshire Police on 101.
Information can also be passed on anonymously, via Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111.
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