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County lines drugs gang who trafficked three boys aged 13, 15 and 16 jailed for total of 17 years

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A county lines drugs gang who made £40,000-a-month after trafficking three boys aged 13, 15 and 16 from Liverpool to Blackpool to sell heroin and crack cocaine have been jailed for a total of 17 years.  

The three schoolboys were recruited as runners for Blackpool’s Golden Mile after their gang leaders, based in Liverpool and Manchester, set-up a drugs hotline targeting the Lancashire resort.

The boys were driven by an Audi 3 car to Blackpool before being put up in accommodation ahead of pre-planned rendezvous with addicts.

In one 24-hour period the youngest boy made £637 selling 14 rocks of crack and 11 wraps of heroin. 

All three were said to be from ‘troubled and chaotic’ backgrounds with one being in local authority care.

Police smashed the racket after detectives went undercover as addicts to purchase drugs from the teenagers. 

It emerged one of the drug bosses had a separate telephone hotline which made £95,000 in sales over a two-month period.

Father-of-two Ryan Wall (pictured), 23, from Knowsley, Liverpool was jailed for nine years

Father-to-be Christopher Thornton (pictured), 20, of Stalybridge, Greater Manchester was locked up for eight years

The teenagers, aged 13, 15 and 16, were recruited as runners for the iconic Promenade after their gang leaders (pictured), based in Liverpool and Manchester, set-up a drugs hotline targeting the Lancashire resort

Single mother Claire Daniels (pictured), 36, of Ashton-under-Lyne was sentenced to two years jail suspended for 24 months

Single mother Claire Daniels (pictured), 36, of Ashton-under-Lyne was sentenced to two years jail suspended for 24 months

Three schoolboys were trafficked 60 miles to Blackpool's Golden Mile (pictured) by a county lines drugs gang so they could peddle heroin and crack cocaine

Three schoolboys were trafficked 60 miles to Blackpool’s Golden Mile (pictured) by a county lines drugs gang so they could peddle heroin and crack cocaine

At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, father-of-two Ryan Wall, 23, from Knowsley, Liverpool was jailed for nine years.  

He admitted conspiracy to supply heroin and cocaine and three charges of facilitating the travel of another person with a view to exploitation under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

Father-to-be Christopher Thornton, 20, of Stalybridge, Greater Manchester was locked up for eight years after he admitted drugs offences, conspiracy and one Modern Slavery charge.

Single mother Claire Daniels, 36, of Ashton-under-Lyne was sentenced to two years jail suspended for 24 months and ordered to complete 180 hours work after she admitted conspiracy.

Junkie Leigh Sleddon, 38, who provided accommodation for the youngsters at his home in Blackpool was given two years jail suspended for two years and was ordered to complete a nine month drug rehabilitation order after he admitted participating in an organised crime group.

All the children are now being supported by a council run ‘safeguarding team’.

The boys were driven by an Audi 3 car to Blackpool before being put up in accommodation ahead of pre-planned rendezvous with addicts. Pictured: Ryan Wall

The boys were driven by an Audi 3 car to Blackpool before being put up in accommodation ahead of pre-planned rendezvous with addicts. Pictured: Ryan Wall

Police smashed the racket after detectives went undercover as addicts to purchase drugs from the teenagers. Pictured: Christopher Thornton

Police smashed the racket after detectives went undercover as addicts to purchase drugs from the teenagers. Pictured: Christopher Thornton

The court heard the boys named only as LT, KA and TJ were recruited between February and April last year to sell drugs for a gang operating a Liverpool-based phone line run by Ward and Thornton which was known as ‘Bones’.

Brendan O’Leary prosecuting said: ‘LT received a request over a messenger service on his phone from the girlfriend of Thornton and later created a contact in his phone for him.

‘One message sent by LT read: ‘U still want me to go up there for u today g’ and Thornton called him later that same evening. 

‘Wall was later seen in Blackpool at a Cash Converters shop purchasing an iPhone 5 and on the same day ‘LT’ created a contact for that device in his own phone.

‘LT was reported missing from his approved accommodation in the Bolton area after after he sent a text message to Thornton saying: ‘What time u comin bro.’  

‘While LT was in Blackpool he was in contact with Wall and the Bones line and there was evidence of him being put to work.  

‘Later another child KA who was 16 turned up in Blackpool and was in contact with Wall.

The court heard the boys named only as LT, KA and TJ were recruited between February and April last year to sell drugs for a gang operating a Liverpool based phone line run by Ward and Thornton which was known as 'Bones'. Pictured: Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester

The court heard the boys named only as LT, KA and TJ were recruited between February and April last year to sell drugs for a gang operating a Liverpool based phone line run by Ward and Thornton which was known as ‘Bones’. Pictured: Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester

It emerged one of the drug bosses had a separate telephone hotline which made £95,000 in sales over a two-month period. Pictured: Claire Daniels

It emerged one of the drug bosses had a separate telephone hotline which made £95,000 in sales over a two-month period. Pictured: Claire Daniels

‘KA later returned to Tameside to restock on drugs before travelling back to Blackpool.

‘Wall sent one text to Thornton saying: ‘Send that g’ and Thornton replied by sending him LT’s mobile phone number with a view to arranging for LT to travel back to Blackpool again to replace KA as the ‘runner’ supplying drugs.

‘Later that evening an Audi A3 driven by Daniels was captured on camera travelling on the M6 en route to Blackpool with LT in the passenger seat.

‘She messaged Wall saying: ‘Am driving back home in a minute been sat here ages mate he’ll have to come back in the mornin. He should know where he’s goin… Lol’. 

‘TJ is a 13-year-old boy who is an associate of KA who contacted him about the ‘Bones’ line number and he was driven to Blackpool. 

‘It is clear the 13-year-old TJ was a replacement for ‘LT’ who by then had been arrested and was now out of action. 

‘TJ was clearly carrying out the role of a runner. He makes a note in his phone which reads ’14w (white for cocaine) 11b (brown for heroin) £637’. 

‘This is a tally of the amounts sold and money taken in and givens an indication of the income from the criminal enterprise.’

Police officers involved in the investigation (left to right) DC Matthew Elliott, DCI Alison Whittaker and DS Wayne Redford

Police officers involved in the investigation (left to right) DC Matthew Elliott, DCI Alison Whittaker and DS Wayne Redford

The court heard TJ and JW were stopped by police at Blackpool Train Station and arrested for breaching non association conditions. 

TJ was subsequently moved into a secure accommodation over concerns about this behaviour.

Thornton and Wall were arrested later along with six other suspects in a co-ordinated strike and police seized various mobile phones revealing the texts between them and the boys.

Police said the Bones drugs hotline made £87,540 over a two month period. In one day 114 drug related calls fielded by Thornton on his ‘Trigga’ hotline generated income of £3,500.

Wall had 18 previous offences on his record including possession with intent to supply cannabis and supplying heroin. Thornton had no drug related matters on his record.

In mitigation Ward said he had joined the drugs line when it was already up and operating whilst Thornton claimed he got involved due to his own addiction to drugs. 

After the case Det Constable Matthew Elliot, from Greater Manchester Police said: ‘What we’ve been able to prove to the court during this investigation, is that Wall and Thornton were not just trafficking drugs but also trafficking people too.

‘They were running their drugs line to Blackpool by deliberately targeting teenage boys, and exploiting them for their own illicit gains.’ 



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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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