NEIGHBOURS of an Ashington pub have spoke of their relief that its drugs ring had been smashed by a police raid.
Residents had already teamed up with police to stop the Base bar reopening this year and were pleased those responsible for turning it into a drugs den had now been punished.
Police went undercover and posed as users to snare the guilty in one of the region’s biggest drug operations, code named ‘Spicer’.
In April, the Station Road bar was raided after officers had been sold cocaine and other class A and B drugs from locals and staff for over five months.
Eighteen of those arrested were charged with drug offences and the bar closed down.
The News Post Leader reported last week that fourteen members of the drugs ring were sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court for drugs offences from conspiracy to supply and supplying controlled drugs.
Eight were jailed for a total of nearly 30 years, three were given suspended sentences and three were given community orders with unpaid work.
Owen White, one of the ring leaders, was jailed for five years and four months for his part in the supply ring.
Peter Gair, prosecuting, told the court it was from watching 21-year-old White, of Ninth Row, Ashington, that Operation Spicer was created.
He said: “The bar must have had a reputation as being somewhere local people could go to buy drugs.
“Drug dealing was almost a culture in the bar and, as a result, it didn’t take long for the undercover police officers to go in and be offered drugs left, right and centre.”
According to police, there has been a 25 per cent drop in youth crime and disorder since the pub, previously called the Avenue, closed.
Reverend Ian Jackson, of the nearby St Aiden’s Church, said: “The area is a lot quieter and feels a lot safer now the bar has closed.
“It caused a lot of problems for the residents so we are very grateful it has gone.”
Local councillor Simon Reed said: “Local residents had been concerned for some time about underage drinking, antisocial behaviour and drug use taking place at the former Base public house on Station Road.
“They have had to put up with noise from the premises, broken glass, vomit and litter in the streets near their homes, damage to property and even sexual activity in the back lane on occasion.
“Following positive action taken by the police and Northumberland County Council licensing last year, a number of arrests were made and the bar closed down.
“Since that time local residents have had their peace restored and successfully opposed a recent plan to reopen the bar.
“I am delighted for local residents that those responsible have now been given significant prison sentences and that one part of our community is safer for those residents and the young people in Ashington who were targeted by these criminals.”