Gang jailed for £450k Harrogate drug conspiracy

Ben Tootill. (S)
Ben Tootill. (S)

A drug dealer from Harrogate has been jailed for 10 years for his part in a £450,000 conspiracy.

Benjamin Tootill, 30, was one of four gang members sentenced at Teesside Crown Court today after he was found guilty of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

Steven Small (S)

Steven Small (S)

Heavy prison sentences were handed to the gang who had dealt across Harrogate, Leeds and Wetherby.

Det Insp Matt Walker, of North Yorkshire Police’s Organised Crime Unit, said he was very satisfied with the sentences.

“The gang members now have to face the consequences of their criminal behaviour and will now spend a significant length of time behind bars,” he said. “The investigations and prosecutions of the gangs, who intended to distribute drugs into our communities, demonstrates North Yorkshire Police’s clear determination, and the powers available to us, to keep the scourge of drugs off our streets.”

A second Harrogate man, Oliver Hawksworth, 28, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class B drugs before the trial began.

Oliver Hawksworth. (S)

Oliver Hawksworth. (S)

He was sentenced to six months suspended for two years, an 18 month supervision order and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

Steven Robert Small, 29, from York, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply Class A and Class B drugs. He was convicted earlier in 2013 of conspiring to supply a Class A drug, cocaine, conspiring to supply class B drugs and conspiracy to convert criminal proceeds in York. He has been sentenced to a total of 12 years’ imprisonment.

Daniel James Fisher, 35, from Bradford, was convicted of conspiracy to supply Class A and Class B drugs and has received a prison sentence of 10 years.

This brings a total of 14 convictions following two linked conspiracies across North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire, with 11 people having being convicted at a trial earlier this year.

Daniel Fisher. (S)

Daniel Fisher. (S)

The separate investigations into organised crime groups began in January 2011, one centred in York and the other in Harrogate, Wetherby and Leeds.

It soon became apparent they were linked by Stephen Small, both operating across the North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire areas

They involved many hours of covert police tactics including surveillance, analysis of mobile phone contacts and concealed recording equipment.

The evidence gathered in this way in part included the conspirators implicating themselves in the offences.

Police enquiries showed that although the two gangs were separate organisations, they conducted business with each other.

As a result of the investigation Class A and Class B drugs with a value in excess of £300,000 were seized. Officers also confiscated more than £150,000 in cash.

The gang members were arrested between January and April 2012.

“Stephen Small is a cunning man who was the mastermind at the centre of a criminal web,” said Det Insp Walker. “He ran his criminal enterprise in a professional business-like manner, working closely with his co-conspirators. He distanced himself from handling the drugs, however the evidence and subsequent verdicts clearly show he orchestrated the business.

“The evidence gathered during the investigation into the gang operating in Harrogate and West Yorkshire revealed that they planned drug supply between themselves and their customers, maintaining regular phone contact and using a courier to transport the drugs.

“They were all very careful not to be caught in possession of drugs. The proactive operation to catch this group resulted in significant seizures of drugs.

“If you know of anyone involved in the illegal drugs trade, I urge you to contact North Yorkshire Police. Or, if you would rather remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers.”