Two men who were charged during a high-profile operation to tackle ‘cuckooing’ and serious organised crime in Fraserburgh and Peterhead have been sentenced to a total of almost six years in prison.
Colin Stewart, 34, was sentenced to 47 months and 32-year-old Richard Cameron to 20 months in connection with drug supply offences committed in both towns last year.
The pair appeared at Aberdeen Sheriff Court yesterday (Monday, January 14) after being arrested and charged in October during Operation Corner, a multi-agency initiative to disrupt Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) who target vulnerable people within their own homes in order to establish themselves locally to sell or store drugs. These criminals usually come from outwith Scotland to expand their network.
In total 53 people were charged and 34 drug search warrants executed during the operation, with those charged reported to the Procurator Fiscal.
Another man – Douglas Sandison – who was also arrested and charged during the op pled guilty at the end of last year to drug-related offences and was sentenced to 44 months in prison.
‘Cuckooing’ and ‘county lines’ are not new concepts and have been taken seriously for years by officers here in the North East to reduce the exploitation of vulnerable people. And Operation Corner continues as we work with our partners to support to those who were identified as being in need and wanted help in a bid to end the cycle that drug abuse brings and ultimately reduce the demand.
These sentences come as Police Scotland supports a national Crimestoppers campaign to highlight the pain and suffering that criminals who come particularly from outwith Scotland can inflict on vulnerable people living in our rural and coastal towns. The campaign focuses on ‘county lines’ which often involves criminals from major cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, London and Birmingham expanding their drug networks to other areas, bringing with it serious criminal behaviour such as violence, exploitation and abuse.
Detective Chief Inspector Lorna Ferguson said: “The ultimate aim of Operation Corner was to focus on the activities of those involved in serious and organised crime at all levels, particularly those who were travelling to the North East to exploit vulnerable people living in Peterhead and Fraserburgh for their own financial gain.
‘Cuckooing’ or ‘county lines’ may not be new concepts but we were hearing from both communities that illegal drug activity was affecting their quality of life and increased activity was required to tackle this unwanted behaviour.
“We are committed to disrupting the activities of those involved in serious crime at all levels, however the operation also focused on the vulnerable people who assist these groups on a day-to-day basis by giving them a local base from which to operate from. It has always been recognised that some of these individuals are willing to undertake these roles for their own personal gain, but it is also important to recognise that some of these individuals are the victims of exploitation.
“We identified a number of people as victims of cuckooing with many of them requesting a referral to substance misuse services. Many people who refused help before were able to re-engage with the system, with others identified who were not known to us or our partners before.
“Tackling drug misuse is not just about the police putting doors in and executing warrants. Whilst this is an important part of disrupting the supply, we must also address the wider issues that bring about drug abuse in the first place and we work with our partners to provide the ‘wrap around’ support to those who need and want it.
“The success of operations like Corner are only possible thanks to the support we receive from the public and we continue to urge anyone who has information about the supply of drugs to contact the Police on 101 or via the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."