Members of a violent gang dubbed as ‘The Geordies’, who brought misery to communities in South Devon, have been jailed for a combined total of 105 years.
The 13 men have been sent to prison for flooding the streets with cocaine and cannabis while using brutal methods and sexual violence to enforce their grip on a criminal empire.
They were sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday for a range of Class A and B drugs offences. Their behaviour involved exploiting a number of vulnerable people and five of the gang were jailed for multiple rapes.
A victim described them as ‘monsters’.
Police say the group – known by locals as ‘The Geordies’ - exerted significant influence and control within Dawlish and Teignmouth and used violence and coercive tactics to maintain a criminal operation valued at £1million.
The Geordies, the core of which made up of individuals originally from Sunderland, used serious violence to enforce debt - with some debtors owing as much as £50,000.
Its leader James Lee Brooks - known as ‘Geordie Lee’ – boasted he was the ‘King of Dawlish’ and said of his band of criminals, ‘We run this town’ and, ‘Cash is king’.
Brooks, aged 41, is now beginning a 25-year prison sentence for 20 drugs and sex offences.
These included conspiracy to supply cocaine and cannabis and 13 counts of aiding and abetting rape.
Evidence shown during the trial showed John White and Ross Morton dishing out a brutal beating to one debtor. The assault was filmed and later found on James Brooks’ mobile phone.
The offences occurred between 2018 and 2019. Police arrested the majority of the group on March 27 last year.
Tuesday's sentencing follows a four-month trial which concluded on January 28.
Detective constable James Brice said: “This complex investigation involved a group of individuals who have caused misery to many in the Dawlish and other South Devon areas.
“By instilling fear in a small community over a number of years, people were frightened to come forward and provide evidence.
“The police therefore used a wide range of tactics and evidential sources to unravel a complex drugs supply network.
“I want to personally thank those individuals who assisted this investigation.
“I hope that the various communities and individuals affected by the criminality caused by this group feel that some justice has been done”.
James Brooks’ half-brother and key lieutenant John White, aka ‘Johnboy’, was jailed for nine years.
White, 35, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine and cannabis.
Ross Morton was found guilty of eight counts of rape and further charges of conspiracy to supply cocaine and cannabis. He also admitted a count of coercive and controlling behaviour.
Morton, 32, of Sunderland, was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Nazrul Islam was found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine, two counts of rape, and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
He admitted conspiracy to supply cannabis and a further charge of possession of ammunition without a licence.
The 36-year-old was jailed for 11 years.
Other key members of the group included John Rowntree, Keiron Archbold, Gavin Brooks and Martin Turner.
Rowntree, 35, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine, heroin and cannabis and two further counts of making threats to kill. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.
Archbold, 22, and Turner, 41, were both convicted of conspiracy to supply cocaine and cannabis and were jailed for six and seven years respectively.
Gavin Brooks, 26, of Tyne and Wear, the cousin of James Brooks, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin. He was sentenced to two years in prison.
The court heard the group supplied Class A and B drugs to others in Dawlish and Teignmouth.
Members of the jury were told Marvin Grant and Lewis Williams, from Liverpool, were involved in four drugs runs to Dawlish.
Grant coordinated the delivery of drugs, while Williams delivered them to Devon.
Police surveillance captured an exchange of money between Williams and Keiron Archbold in the car park at Dawlish Warren railway station.
Both Grant and Williams admitted conspiracy to supply cannabis and possession of Class A drugs with intent to supply.
Grant, 33, was jailed for five years.
Williams, 20, was handed a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years.
“The group dished out or threatened violence on those who did not pay or crossed them,” added Det Con Brice.
The recovery of money owed was enforced by threats of violence.
Text messages recovered by police included one in which James Brooks contacted one debtor with a threat to ‘open him up’.
The trial heard how Nazrul Islam arranged for two members of the gang to attend the address of one man over a drugs debt. A vicious assault took place which resulted in the victim suffering facial injuries and bruised ribs.
Islam was arrested in May 2017, and again in March 2019, when, on both occasions, he was found in possession of significant quantities of Class A drugs.
The DNA of John Rowntree, known as ‘Faggy’, was recovered from the knot of a bag found in a hedge in Dawlish by a dog walker. It contained around £4,000-worth of cocaine and heroin.
John Jackson, 30, admitted conspiracy to supply cannabis and assault inflicting grievous bodily harm. He was jailed for two years and one month.
The gang used its influence and control to sexually exploit three women.
Stephen Green, 38, was convicted of four counts of rape and was jailed for four years.
James Trott, 37, was also found guilty of rape and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison.
One of the rape victims said in a statement read to the court: “James Brooks and his associates are, in my opinion, all evil people. Monsters even.
“They do very bad things to people. They ruin people’s lives.
“They are involved in drugs, with which come all the wicked, violent and hateful things that surround it.
“They rely on violence to put fear into people. This is what they did to me. There was never a choice.”