Leeds couple made spice on an 'industrial scale' in their garden shed then sold the drug to prisoners across the UK

A couple supplied spice to prisoners across the country after making the synthetic drug in the garden shed at their home in Leeds.

Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 4:45 am

Steven Kaye and Charlotte Smales ran the operation on an 'industrial scale' at their home on North Parkway, Seacroft.

The synthetic cannabis drug was made using chemicals then sprayed on sheets of paper to be mailed to inmates in custodial institutions across England and Wales.

Leeds Crown Court heard the paper would often be used by inmates' family and friends to write letters.

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Steven Kaye was jailed for five years and seven months at Leeds Crown Court.

Once inside a prison, a single sheet of paper can be worth up to £700 if cut up into squares and sold individually.

The couple used a bank account belonging to another man, Adam Birkett, to receive payments from 'customers' across the country.

Tom Storey, prosecuting, said police went to the couple's family home on August 30, 2018, after receiving information.

The officers searched the shed and found materials commonly used in the production of the synthetic cannabis, including many empty bottles of nail polish remover.

Adam Birkett was jailed for two years and eight months.

There were also A4 notebooks with pages removed.

Digital scales were also recovered and £705 in cash was found inside the house.

Smales' driving licence and Birkett's bank card were found in a designer handbag.

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A number of unregistered pay-as-you-go mobile phones were found inside a Range Rover parked on the drive.

One of the phones contained a list of numbers of people who had been supplied with the drug.

An iPhone was found in the house which belonged to Smales.

It contained WhatsApp messages relating to the ordering and production of spice paper dating back to May 2017.

Mr Storey said: "The defendants were involved in a substantial business enterprise.

"Customers were either ordering drugs from custodial institutions or ordering it so it could be passed on."

There was evidence that orders had been placed by people in 29 different postcode locations in England and Wales including Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Bedfordshire, and London.

Mr Storey said: "It appears they were being passed to others to pass on.

"But there was clearly no doubt whatsoever that what was being produced was to be supplied to those in custody."

The court heard staff at some jails make photocopies of prisoners' correspondence then keep hold of original letters to prevent spice paper entering the prison system.

Mr Storey said it appeared the defendants were aware of this as a large number of 'Rule 39' envelope stickers were found at the house.

Rule 39 relates to legally-privileged correspondence which cannot be opened by prison staff.

The iPhone contained text messages referring to the sale of bottles of 'spice mix' so people could spray their own paper.

One message referred to a litre bottle being sold for £350.

Smales had sent a text message referring to her partner dealing in spice.

In another message she wrote: "If you know what you are doing you can make millions. My partner earned just short of 400K in 18 months."

Analysis of Birkett's bank account showed he had received £62,000 from accounts linked to contacts on the iPhone.

Mr Storey said: "The prosecution would say it is arguable that this was an industrial scale operation over a significant period of time that involved the wholesale supply to prisoners across England and Wales.

"At the very least, it is a commercial operation for the wholesale supply."

Kaye refused to comment during a police interview.

Smales initially denied that the iPhone belonged to her.

She told the officers she had had a big win at bingo and claimed she "painted her nails a lot" when asked to account for the large number of nail polish remover bottles.

Kaye pleaded guilty supplying a class B drug.

Smales pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of a class B drug.

Birkett pleaded guilty to possessing criminal property. He also pleaded guilty to six offences of handling stolen goods.

The offences relate to him handling four cars and two motorbikes stolen in house burglaries.

Mr Storey told the court that synthetic cannabis is the "the most destabilising substance" within prisons.

It has been recorded as the cause of death in toxicology reports on multiple occasions, including five prisoners in the Yorkshire and Humber region in 2018.

Every custodial institution in England and Wales has reported receiving papers laced with spice.

An A4 sheet containing the drug can be bought for as little as £10 but can be worth up to £700 when cut up into squares and sold within prison.

The problem has also placed a "significant strain" on the NHS due to paramedics having to go into jails to treat prisoners who have taken spice.

There has also been incidents of prison staff suffering the effects of secondary inhalation of spice.

Kaye, 31, was jailed for five years and seven months.

Birkett, 25. of Oakham Way, Osmondthorpe, Leeds, was jailed for two years, eight months.

Smales, 27, was given a two-year sentence, suspended for 18 months.

Stephen Smithson, mitigating for Kaye, asked Judge Mushtaq Khokhar to take into account the three-year delay in the case coming before the court.

Denise Breen-Lawton, for Smales, said her client had given birth since being arrested and the child suffered with health problems.

Sentencing, Judge Khokhar said: "Drugs are currency in the prison system. It undermines law and order within the prison system."

The Judge told Kaye: "This was a well planned out enterprise and, of course, your nearest and dearest, Charlotte Smales, assistended you in carrying out this enterprise."

After the sentencing was imposed, Kaye jumped over the dock and ran from the courtroom.

He was chased by security officers and detained within the building.

The Judge told Smales that he was only sparing her an immediate prison sentence so she could continue to care for her child.

He said: "The only thing that saves you is not you, it is your child."