A gang engaged in a £5m drugs empire run from a Leeds garage have had their “unduly lenient” jail terms increased.
The Appeal Court in London ruled the sentences handed out to Darren Stewart, 30, Christopher Hill, 31, Jacek Wlodek, 30, and Kieran Walsh, 30, were not tough enough and, in the case of Wlodek, more than doubled the length of his term.
Hill, of Stainbeck Lane, Chapel Allerton, got four and a half years jail, Wlodeck, of Moor Allerton Crescent, Leeds, received two years, and Walsh, of Parkside Crescent, Seacroft, got a 51-week suspended sentence at Leeds Crown Court in June this year.
Stewart, of Wetherby Road, Leeds, was handed a two-year sentence for the cannabis conspiracy, plus a consecutive five-year term for a firearms offence, making a total of seven years.
Their sentences were challenged at London’s Appeal Court by the nation’s top law officer, Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC, saying they did not send out a strong enough message to would-be drug smugglers.
Lady Justice Rafferty increased Hill’s sentence to eight years. Wlodek’s term was upped to five years, Stewart’s went up to a total of eight years and Walsh was ordered to serve his 51-week sentence in prison.
Their illicit operation involved around 700 kilos of cannabis, centred on a lock-up in Mabgate, which was a base for drugs smuggled into the UK through Harwich in oil drums from Holland.
When West Yorkshire Police swooped on the gang Wlodeck was caught as he tried to flee over the rooftops. Stewart was arrested as he tried to hide among rolls of carpets.
A raid of Stewart’s home revealed three kilos of skunk cannabis worth £25,000.
Increasing all four men’s sentences, Lady Justice Rafferty agreed their original terms were too low, given the quantity of drugs involved and sophistication of the conspiracy.
In Wlodeck and Stewart’s case, part of the offence was committed whilst they were on bail. Walsh and Hill had previous convictions for drug offences and Hill was on licence from an earlier cannabis smuggling offence at the time.