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Great Yarmouth drug dealers jailed

PUBLISHED: 10:55 13 February 2009 | UPDATED: 13:02 03 July 2010

A mother was spared prison but saw two of her sons given custodial sentences yesterday following an undercover police operation against drug dealers in Yarmouth.

A mother was spared prison but saw two of her sons given custodial sentences yesterday following an undercover police operation against drug dealers in Yarmouth.

Valerie Johnson, 42, walked free from Norwich Crown Court but her sons Michael Smith, 18, and James Smith, 20, were sent to a young- offender institution after they admitted supplying class A drugs.

Three other men - Daniel Silva, Benjamin Comer and Keith Stretton, all of Yarmouth - were also jailed for a total of more than 10 years after pleading guilty to the same offence.

Lori Tucker, prosecuting, said all six had been arrested following a long-running police operation in the town last year, adding that six co-defendants had been dealt with by the court earlier this month.

On that occasion two women and four men were jailed for a total of 18½ years for selling heroin and crack cocaine.

Johnson, of Selwyn Road, Gorleston, was sentenced to 200 hours' community service after admitting conspiracy to supply.

Guy Ayers, mitigating, said she was the partner of Paul Lawrence, already jailed for his part in the operation, and had done little more than answer the telephone for him and her sons.

“Her knowledge of the drugs world was very limited. She doesn't take them and has not taken them. She knew that her partner - her husband - was involved in something and distanced herself from it, but not far enough.”

Michael Smith, of the same address, received a two-year sentence after admitting selling crack cocaine to an undercover police officer on two occasions.

His brother James, of Havelock Road, Yarmouth, received a 2½-year sentence. He sold heroin to the undercover officer three times.

Silva, 31, of Nelson Road South, was jailed for 2½ years; Keith Stretton, 32, of Devonshire Road, for 3½ years and Ben Comer, 28, of Chaucer Road, for four years and three months.

The court heard that Silva had sold heroin to the officer on four occasions last July.

Stretton sold heroin four times - three of them to the undercover officer, and crack cocaine once between July and September.

Comer sold class A drugs to other users on three occasions and was also found in possession of heroin when he entered prison last October.

The court heard that, Johnson excepted, the defendants were drug users who dealt to support their own habits and had previous convictions for a variety of offences.

Judge Simon Barham told them that jail was inevitable in the circumstances, and said four police officers involved in the operation should be commended.

“They can't be praised too highly, particularly the undercover officer who had to risk injury,” he said.

After the case, Det Supt Andy Macfarlane said: “I would like to thank our partner agencies with whom we have worked closely for their continued support in such operations.

“The result of this investigation is a testament to the police officers whose professionalism, tenacity and courage is instrumental in reducing the supply of controlled drugs within our communities.”

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