Bristol

Bristol drugs gang kept cannabis above Costa coffee shop

Clockwise from top left: Joe Hatherall, Paul Cotterell, Marcus Humm, Martin Casey, Kevin Pearce, Colston Dixey and Martin McDonagh Image copyright Avon and Somerset Police
Image caption Clockwise from top left: Joe Hatherall, Paul Cotterell, Marcus Humm, Martin Casey, Kevin Pearce, Colston Dixey and Martin McDonagh

A drugs ringleader who masterminded his network from a flat above a Costa coffee shop has been jailed for nine years.

Joe Hatherall, 24, from Brislington, led a team of "managers and gardeners" in Bristol, Gloucester and Cardiff.

Seven other men were also sentenced for their part in the gang, which produced and sold more than £560,000-worth of cannabis from six locations.

Hatherall was the only one to plead not guilty to the charges.

But was he convicted on 23 March of conspiracy to produce and supply the Class B drug.

Bristol Crown Court heard the operation was uncovered in June 2017 after a cannabis den was found in a basement below Costa coffee shop in Clifton, Bristol.

The basement, as well as three rooms in the upstairs flat, had been converted to grow the plants.

Image copyright Avon and Somerset Police
Image caption Police said production was on a commercial scale

Five further farms were found by the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit over a five-month period and more than 800 cannabis plants were seized.

Hatherall's accomplice Marcus Humm, 27, from Dilton Marsh, was jailed for three years after admitting conspiracy to produce and supply cannabis.

Martin McDonagh, 25, of Lockleaze, and Martin Casey, 28, of no fixed address, were both jailed for two and a half years after admitting the same offence.

Four others also admitted being involved in producing the drug - Kevin Pearce, 20, of no fixed address, Paul Cotterell, 20, from Minehead, and Colston Dixey, 19, from Pill, all received nine-month prison sentences, suspended for two years, while Alan Greer, 69, of Gloucester, received a 12-month community order.

Image copyright Avon and Somerset Police
Image caption The basement below a coffee shop had been converted to grow plants

Det Insp Paul Catton said: "It became clear to us through surveillance and later analysis of evidence that Hatherall was the central figure, coordinating his co-conspirators in the production and supply of cannabis on a commercial scale.

"We even seized footage from Hatherall's own CCTV of him leaving his Brislington home to check out police activity at Whiteladies Road following the arrest of another man."

Hatherall was arrested in July after police found him in a hotel next to Bristol airport with his passport, £550 cash and a letter of apology to his girlfriend. Officers believe he intended to flee the country.

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