Ottery woman's home 'cuckooed' by County Lines drug gang

Exeter Crown Court. Picture: Archant

Exeter Crown Court. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

A judge has shown mercy to a woman whose home in Ottery St Mary was taken over and used as a base by a London-based drugs gang. 

Gemma Small had a drug habit at the time and allowed the house in Mossop Close to be ‘cuckooed’ by the gang over about a few weeks in early 2020. 

She did not sell drugs herself but helped the gang by providing a base. The phone that they were using was found to have pinged off the nearest mast more times than at any other location. 

 Police also recovered messages between two of the conspirators which asked whether there was any ‘food’ at her house, that being criminal slang for unsold supplies of drugs. 

The total amount of drugs sold by the conspirators amounted to more than a kilogram, but her home was only involved in the supply of a fraction of that. 

 Small, aged 45, admitted allowing her premises to be used for the supply of heroin and crack cocaine and was ordered to do 15 hours of unpaid community work and ten days of rehabilitation activities by Judge Timothy Rose at Exeter Crown Court. 

He told her: “It is a depressing feature of County Lines drug dealing that those who come down from other areas try to find someone, almost always a user, whose home they can occupy and make use of. 

Most Read

 “You were put in a difficult position and should have resisted, but this court understands it is not always that easy. It is accepted you are at the lower end of culpability and did not take an active part in the drug supply activity. 

“It is likely you were exploited due to your personal vulnerabilities.” 

 Mr Joss Ticehurst, prosecuting, said four other members of the crime group have admitted conspiracy and will be sentenced later. 

 They used Small’s home at different times between December 12, 2019 and February 6, 2020, when it was raided by police and £4,000 worth of heroin and cocaine found in the possession of one of the gang. 

 Phone cell site analysis showed extensive use of the drugs line phone near her home and a large number of calls to it from her phone. It was accepted her home had been ‘cuckooed’. 

 Mr Brian Fitzherbert, defending, said Small believed her house had only been used on three days. He said she was vulnerable at the time because of drug use and other personal issues but has turned her life around since. 

 He said she has got clean of drugs and is hoping to start a new job shortly.