Final defendant sentenced in UK’s largest ever prison drugs conspiracy

A 57-year-old Bermudian man has become the 17th defendant to be sentenced in South Yorkshire Police’s investigation into the largest ever drug and weapon prison smuggling conspiracy in the UK.

William Francis on (9 January 2024) was jailed for three years and 11 months, after his 16 conspirators were sentenced in October 2023. The 17 have collectively been sentenced to over 88 years in prison.

The court heard how 38-year-old mental health nursing assistant, Amy Hatfield, worked alongside the other defendants to smuggle over £1million worth of drugs, knives and mobile phones into the grounds of HMP Lindholme in Doncaster.

On 24 October 2019, Hatfield was arrested as she arrived for work. In her possession, officers found MDMA, bags of ketamine, spice paper, vials of testosterone, anabolic steroids, mobile phones, phone accessories, tobacco and other prescription drugs. She also had four Ribena bottles with her, which contained around two litres of liquid spice. This alone was estimated by prison experts to be worth over £1 million.

Francis was already a suspect in an ongoing investigation for conveying Class A and B drugs into Lindholme earlier in 2019.

When our Prison Anti-Corruption Unit started their enquiries into the ring working alongside Hatfield, Francis was linked to the group through financial work. He was later interviewed and charged, and pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply Class A drugs, two counts of possession with intent to supply Class B drugs, and conspiracy to convey drugs into prison.

Detective Sergeant Gareth Gent, who heads up our dedicated Prison Anti-Corruption Unit, said: “The sentencing of William Francis today marks the end of our unprecedented four-year investigation into a highly complex criminal network operating inside HMP Lindholme.

“A significant amount of work went into piecing together the activities of the network of criminals operating both inside and outside of the prison system, and I am pleased that Francis is joining 13 of his co-conspirators behind bars.”

DS Gent added: “The smuggling of dangerous and illegal substances into prisons is an extremely serious crime, and we know that the circulation of drugs and other illicit substances in our prisons causes great misery, violence and sadly death.

“Our work to tackle the smuggling of illegal items into prisons does not stop here, and we continue to work alongside partners in the prison service to eliminate this kind of activity in prisons. We are steadfast in our commitment to identifying those who exploit that system and will ensure those responsible are met with the full force of the law.”

Francis, of Hogan Gardens in Nottingham, was today handed a 47-month sentence at Bradford Crown Court.

The defendants have collectively been sentenced to 88 years and 11 months in prison, with three of the 17 defendants being handed suspended sentences totalling an additional four years and eight months.

You can read more about how detectives unravelled the UK’s largest prison drugs conspiracy on our website here.

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