Drug dealers have sentences slashed

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Three leading members of a crime gang which peddled hard drugs across Lincolnshire today won cuts in their prison sentences at the Court of Appeal.

Stephen John Payne, Philip Mark Cox and Timothy Scott Louth each pleaded guilty at Lincoln Crown Court to conspiracies to supply Class A and B drugs.

Payne and Cox (both 42), were sentenced to 11 years, and Louth (31), who, although a leading player, was not as high up as the others, for nine years in May this year.

But last week, Payne and Cox had their sentences cut to nine-and-a-half years and Louth to seven-and-a-half years in a hearing at the Court of Appeal in London.

Mr Justice King, sitting with Lord Justice Treacy and Judge Alistair McCreath, said the sentencing judge had punished the trio too sternly for their crimes.

The court heard the drugs plot was smashed after a police investigation, codenamed Operation Atlanta, which ran from 2009 to 2011.

All three were said to be “principle defendants”, with Cox and Payne acting somewhere in the hierarchy between the importers and those who actually dealt the drugs.

Cox, of Jubilee Road, North Somercoates, Louth, used his legitimate fishing lake business to add a veneer of respectability to his actions, providing an explanation for traffic at his property.

Payne, of Pear Tree Lane, Fulston, Louth, owned a farm, where there were several outbuildings which were ideal for storing drugs. It became an effective distribution centre.

Louth, of Wyberton Road, Wyberton, near Boston, had a logistical role in the operation, organising couriers to ferry drugs, cutting agents and money around.

But Mr Justice King said all three had personal mitigation. Louth was a talented musician and artist who had done charity work, Cox was a foster carer and Payne had been influenced by more experienced criminals, he said.

The appeals were allowed and the sentences reduced.