'County lines' drugs gang jailed after shipping crack cocaine and heroin into Leamington and Warwick

Top row from left: MIchael Hedli, Paul Hodgson, Shaan Ali Khan. Bottom row from left: Steven Bicknell, Ian John Ward.
Top row from left: MIchael Hedli, Paul Hodgson, Shaan Ali Khan. Bottom row from left: Steven Bicknell, Ian John Ward.

Five members of a 'county lines' drugs gang who smuggled crack cocaine and heroin worth hundreds of thousands of pounds into Leamington and Warwick have been jailed.

The group made more than 300 shipments of crack cocaine and heroin into the towns between February 2015 and October 2016. Each shipment consisted of drugs with an estimated street value of between £500 and £1,000.

The investigation into the gang was launched by the Warwickshire Police Serious Organised Crime Unit in 2015 after a number of local policing investigations identified the organised supply of drugs into the town.

And now, five men have been handed prison sentences for their roles in the operation. All were sentenced for conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin.

They are: Michael John Hedli, 41, of Humphris Street, Warwick. He was sentenced to six and a half years in prison after being found guilty.

Paul Noel Hodgson, 26, of Holly Road, Handsworth, Birmingham. He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison after being found guilty.

Steven Kevin Bicknell, 33, of Field Barn Road, Hampton Magna. He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison after being found guilty.

Shaan Ali Khan, 20, of Kenilworth, was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison after pleading guilty.

And Ian John Ward, 45, of Wellesbourne Road, Birmingham, was sentenced to five and a half years in prison after being found guilty.

Following the sentencing, Detective Inspector Alan Townsend from the Warwickshire Police Serious Organised Crime Unit said: "This was a well organised operation that saw drugs being transported into Warwickshire on an industrial scale. It was a typical county lines drugs business, with runners used to transport the goods from a large city into smaller towns.

"The convictions follow a long and complex investigation and I'd like to praise the persistence and professionalism of everyone involved in the operation.

"Drug use fuels violence and petty crime, increasing pressure on police, health services and other public agencies; It's vital that we do all we can to cut off supply lines such as this and ensure those responsible are put behind bars.

"As with many investigations into serious organised crime groups, this investigation started following local operations carried out by local policing teams and the intelligence they gathered as a result of these operations.

"These local operations helped the serious organised crime unit to piece together the bigger picture and target those responsible.

"Intelligence provided by members of the public was key to bringing about this conviction. People should be reassured that we do act on all the information they provide about drug dealing in their communities and we do take action."

Anyone with concerns about the use or supply of drugs can report it by calling 101. Alternatively, information can be provided anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.