Ilford station drug gang jailed for a total of 28 years and banned from town centre for 10 years

Costa Coffee, Cranbrook Road.

Costa Coffee, Cranbrook Road. - Credit: Archant

Eleven drug dealers who turned Ilford station into an open market for narcotics will collectively spend more than 28 years behind bars.

The 11 men, aged 18 to 29, were handed their punishments at Blackfriars Crown Court today, with sentences ranging from two to four-and-a-half-years for numerous offences involving heroin, crack cocaine and cannabis.

The British Transport Police (BTP) launched Operation Parish in February last year, investigating increasing reports of drug dealing in and around Ilford station in Cranbrook Road.

During that operation, undercover officers infiltrated a gang selling the Class A and B drugs, predominantly from the Costa Coffee in Cranbrook Road.

After months of investigation, the 11 dealers were arrested – most in early morning raids on homes across east London on September 1.

Alongside their prison sentences, each was handed a criminal behaviour order banning them from entering Ilford town centre or associating with any of the other gang members for 10 years.

Passing the sentences Judge Henry Blacksell QC condemned the gang’s “blatant and reprehensible” system of selling drugs in public places.

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“These streets do not belong to you,” he told the assembled convicts.

“You are part of the community but you chose to behave as a drain and a blight on it.

“Understandably the general public look to the courts to deal appropriately with you.”

Nine offenders pleaded guilty late last year, but Abdul Boota, 18, and Klevis Locaj, 20, were both found guilty following a three week trial last month.

Sherali Nasiri, an asylum seeker believed to lead the group, was described as “an omniscient presence” outside Ilford Station by prosecutor Martyn Bowyer.

The 21-year-old was sentenced to four years and six months’ imprisonment, the heaviest sentence any gang member received.

During the sentencing, Judge Blacksell took exception to some solicitors arguing their clients had little or no knowledge of the extent of the drug dealing they were involved in.

“You can’t tell me that,” he interrupted.

“You couldn’t go down Ilford High Street and not know the extent of their drug dealing operation.

“The scale of what was going on was very troubling, and it could not have been any more obvious.”

It was a point Judge Blacksell returned to when summing up the case.

“Everyone in Ilford knew what was going on,” he said.

“It’s easy enough to recognise on the streets of this city, but in Ilford it was being so blatantly carried out.

“Each one of you knew very well what you were involving yourselves in.”