EIGHT men and women have been sentenced for their involvement in an organised crime group that trafficked class A drugs between Greater Manchester and North Yorkshire.

The men and women – who come from Manchester, Oldham and York – were sentenced at Manchester Crown Court on October 14 following an 18-month police investigation.

The investigation, codenamed Operation Homestead, was led by GMP Oldham's Challenger Team and assisted by North Yorkshire Police and the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Organised Crime Unit.

Detectives uncovered how the group trafficked drugs to the streets of Greater Manchester, North Yorkshire and elsewhere between April and June in 2020 by using couriers on the road and rail networks.

They also used vulnerable people, including children, to store the drugs at properties in York in a practice known as 'cuckooing'.

In October 2020, detectives raided 10 properties in Manchester, Oldham and York, with charges authorised later in the same day.

Of the men and women sentenced last week, five were given prison sentences, one of whom is a woman from Oldham.

Georgia Leigh, 23, of Bowling Green Close, was sentenced to four years and two months for conspiracy to supply class A drugs, some of which were smuggled into a prison along with cannabis and tobacco.

The four others given prison sentences for conspiracy to supply class A drugs – Jack Smedley (24), Daniel Halford (25), Simon Potter (49) and Marc Simpson (55) – are all men from Manchester and York.

Smedley, of Manchester, was sentenced to four and a half years on top of eight and half years he was ordered to serve in April for the same offence, making a total of 13 years.

Whereas Halford, of Manchester, and Potter and Simpson, both of York, were sentenced to between two and three years.

Aside from these prison sentences, three others were sentenced for their involvement in the group.

Nicole Crighton, 22, of Wilson Way, Oldham, was sentenced to two years suspended for two years, plus 150 hours unpaid work.

Simon Davies, 48, of Higher House Close, Oldham, was sentenced to a two-year community order, 150 hours unpaid work and 17 days of rehab.

Stephanie Beard, 27, of Dumfries Avenue, Oldham, a GMP civilian worker in the administration department also pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled drug and was given a two-year conditional discharge in August.

She has remained suspended since September 2020 pending an upcoming misconduct hearing.

Finally, Michelle Simpson, 48, of York, was sentenced to a two-year community order, 20 days unpaid work and nine months of rehab.

Detective Constable Chris Brown, of GMP Oldham's Challenger Team, said: "Today's verdicts bring to an end what has been a wide-ranging and complex investigation into the trafficking of large amounts of drugs between Greater Manchester and North Yorkshire.

"County Lines offending is a serious issue that is being tackled across the country between forces and partner agencies to target offenders, take drugs off the streets, and to safeguard victims of exploitation.

"We believe that vulnerable people were preyed upon to facilitate this conspiracy here and we have ensured that children as young as 16, as well as vulnerable adults, have been safeguarded from future exploitation.

"This is in addition to putting five people behind bars and taking significant amounts of class A drugs from circulation on the streets of our two counties across the Pennines and possibly beyond there too.

"I'd like to thank all the detectives, officers, local agencies and policing partners from North Yorkshire for their dedication and support during this investigation over the course of the last 18 months for helping to take some serious offenders out of our communities."

Cabinet member for children and young people at the council, Cllr Eddie Moores, said: “I would like to thank all those involved in bringing these criminals to justice, these crimes exploited the most vulnerable in our society including children and young people.

"We know child criminal exploitation has a massive impact on the lives of the children involved, so we will ensure that we have services are in place to help and support any Oldham children who may have been affected."