Drug dealers 'working in broad daylight' on Scarborough streets

Lee Gair and Steven Franks
Lee Gair and Steven Franks

Two drug kingpins who masterminded a major heroin and crack-cocaine dealing operation in Scarborough have been jailed for a combined 17 years.

Judge Paul Batty QC told Lee Gair, 26, and and Steven Franks, 30, that their respective sentences of nine years and eight years should serve as a warning to others who travel to Scarborough to prey on addicts and exploit the town’s lucrative drug trade.

He said the “deterrent” sentences were to reflect the fact that Gair and Franks, both from Leeds, had orchestrated a major drug operation in which they marshalled street dealers and got them to sell heroin and crack on the east coast.

Gair and Franks are just the latest in a long line of drug pushers from other cities in Yorkshire, the North West and the Midlands who have descended on Scarborough to set up so-called “cuckoo” networks in which out-of-town dealers foist themselves on local drug addicts and live at their homes, which they use as a “nest” or supply base away from the prying eyes of the police.

Before the sentence hearing at York Crown Court on Tuesday, Mr Batty made it plain that he wanted maximum media exposure of the case to highlight the growing drug problem in Scarborough fanned by the iniquitous exploits of dealers from major cities including Leeds, Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester.

Temporary Detective Sergeant Andrew Hall, the chief investigating officer who has played a key role in the ongoing war on Class A drug dealers in Scarborough, delivered a damning report on the devastating effects the “loathsome” trade was having on the local community.

In his report, Mr Hall said the rampant Class A drug trade was “tying up” police resources and leading to increased levels of violence, robbery and the use of weapons.

But he also added that it was having a major impact on the tourist trade, local economy and vital services such as the NHS, which was having to deal with increasing numbers of heroin overdoses and mental-health problems.

The report stated that the proliferation of “cuckoo” dealers and the high number of heroin and crack addicts in the town had blighted community life, with needles and other drug paraphernalia strewn around public amenities and children’s playgrounds.

He said the growing drug trade had also resulted in the spread of infectious diseases, as well as increasing levels of homelessness and debt among addicts. In one instance in 2013, a murder in the town had been directly attributable to drug supply.

Mr Hall said dealers were operating in broad daylight in tourist hotspots and warned: “It could deter people from coming to Scarborough.”

He said at least one of the five street peddlers working under Gair and Stevens was arrested in sight of tourists. Another was nabbed at the home of a drug addict in Eastborough, where the “cuckoo” dealer had taken up residence.

Prosecutor Tom Storey said Gair, Stevens and their gang of street peddlers were operating in Scarborough for about two months in the summer of 2014. It had been impossible to ascertain how much money the pair had made from the operation, but it could have been substantial.

Gair, of Northcote Crescent, Leeds, and Stevens, of Lupton Street, Hunslet, were described as the “directors” of the network and made numerous trips between Leeds and Scarborough to pick up and deliver drugs.

Gair had carried on directing operations from his home city even after being arrested and bailed in September 2014. He even made trips back to Scarborough despite being barred from entering the town.

The court heard that one of his dealers was caught with 130 wraps of heroin and crack en route from Leeds to Scarborough.

Both defendants, who have previous convictions for drug-supply offences and serious violence, entered late guilty pleas to two counts each of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs just before a trial was due to be held.

Stevens claimed he was chiefly the driver for Gair, who claimed he had been forced into dealing drugs by suppliers higher up the chain.

But Mr Batty dismissed these claims and said they had effectively both played an equal role in the co-ordination of the drug network.

He added: “The time for a deterrent sentence has come. You were directing and selling on a virtually commercial scale.”

Upon receiving their sentences, Gair and Stevens looked bewildered and uttered expletives as they were led down to the cells.

Mr Batty paid tribute to the work of the police investigating team which he described as “extremely impressive”. He reserved particular praise for Mr Hall and said he would be recommending that he receive an official commendation from the Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police.