‘They brought violence and misery to our city’: County lines gang jailed for 25 years after cross-Pennine ‘Junior Line’ drug conspiracy

Five members of a serious and organised crime group that trafficked heroin and crack cocaine between Greater Manchester and North Yorkshire have been jailed for a total of 25 years.

Left to right: Top - Smedley & Halford; Bottom - Leigh & Potter

In total, five men and three women from Manchester, Oldham and York were sentenced on Thursday (October 14) at Manchester Crown Court after an 18-month investigation led by detectives in GMP Oldham's Challenger team.

A considerable amount of Class A drugs are thought to have been supplied by the offenders to the streets of Greater Manchester, North Yorkshire, and beyond.

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Detectives uncovered how the group referred to the drugs line as the 'Junior Line' in the midst of their offending between April and June last year.

In May 2020, officers began to piece together a picture of the group's offending before carrying out a sting on their addresses on October 1 that year, when ten properties in Manchester, Oldham, Tameside and York were targeted.

The court heard how Jack Smedley, 24, from Moston, controlled the supply of class A drugs - namely heroin and crack cocaine - for the rest of the group to disseminate to couriers utilising the road and rail networks to transport the drugs.

He was one of four men convicted of conspiracy to supply class A drugs alongside Daniel Halford, 26, Simon Potter, 49, and Marc Simpson, 55 - who all pleaded guilty to the offence.

Smedley, of Heppleton Road, will now serve 13 years behind bars after receiving a four-and-a-half year additional sentence to the eight-and-a-half years imprisonment he was ordered to serve in April earlier this year for further supply of class A drugs to York.

Halford, of HMP Forest Bank, was given three years for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, Potter, of Leicester Way, York, was jailed for two years and 10 months, and Simpson, of Wilberforce Avenue, York, will spend two years in prison.

Georgia Leigh, 23, of Bowling Green Close, Oldham, was also sentenced to four years and two months for conspiracy to supply class A drugs - including 10 months for conveying 'List A' articles into prison, class A drugs, mobile phones cannabis and tobacco.

Nicole Crighton, 22, of Wilson Way, Oldham, was found to be concerned in the supply of class A drugs and was sentenced to two years suspended for two years, including 150 hours unpaid work.

Simon Davies, Michelle Simpson - both 48 - were convicted for participating in the activities of an organised crime group.

Davies, of Higher House Close, Oldham, was given a two-year community order, 150 hours unpaid work and 17 days rehab.

Michelle Simpson, of Wilberforce Avenue, York, was given a two-year community order, nine months of rehab and 20 days unpaid work.

Stephanie Beard, 27, of Dumfries Avenue, Oldham, a GMP civilian worker in the administration department also pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled drug and was given a two-year conditional discharge in August 2021.

She has remained suspended since September 2020 pending an upcoming misconduct hearing.

The gang's cross-Pennine conspiracy was unearthed by a dedicated Greater Manchester Police operation - codenamed Homestead - with support from policing partners in North Yorkshire Police and the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Organised Crime Unit.

North Yorkshire Police’s Detective Inspector Michelle Falkingham, of York CID, said: "This gang brought violence and misery to our city and it is good to see justice catching up with them.”

Detective Constable Chris Brown, of GMP Oldham's Challenger team, said: "We believe that vulnerable people were preyed upon to facilitate this conspiracy here and we have ensured that children as young as 16, as well as vulnerable adults, have been safeguarded from future exploitation.”