Investigation helps to protect vulnerable people Date published: 23rd March 2016 12.33pm

A total of eight people have been sentenced following a complex investigation into the long-term abuse of vulnerable people in Chester.

Three men and three women all appeared at Chester Crown Court on Tuesday 22 March 2016 where they were sentenced to a total of more than 11 years in prison. They had all pleaded guilty to a variety of offences including harassment and conspiracy to steal.

Two people were also sentenced in January this year. Crystal Gail Rowson 30, formerly of Selywn Street in Leigh was sentenced to eight months for theft, while Matthew Williams, 43, formerly of Nicholas Street in Chester was sentenced to three months in prison for theft.

Those sentenced on 22 March were Samantha Daniels, 30, of no fixed address, sentenced to two year and six months;  Andrew Graham, 32, previously from Euston Grove, Birkenhead sentenced to two years and six months; Mandy Gray, 50, previously from Liscard Road, Liscard sentenced to 2 years in prison; Kevin Thompson, 52, of no fixed address sentenced to three years in prison; Clare Thompson, 43, of no fixed address sentenced to two years in prison suspended for 24 months with supervision and Samantha Daniels, 30, of no fixed address sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

Darren Daniels, 46, previously from Glyn Garth, Chester was sentenced to one year eight months for unrelated drugs offences, but is also subject to a civil injunction along with those given custodial sentences and a 40-year-old Chester woman who was not part of the criminal proceedings.

The investigation, codenamed Operation Brisbane, started in March 2015 following concerns raised by members of the public relating to the abuse of vulnerable people in the Chester area by four men and five women.

After becoming aware of the issues PC Leanne Lowndes, the beat manager for Blacon, worked with Sergeant Mandy Shaw, from the Chester Anti-Social Behaviour unit, and applied for Civil Injunctions to be taken out against the nine men and women involved.  This was the first time the civil injunctions had ever been used by Cheshire Police.

In order to get the Civil Injunctions granted PC Lowndes worked in partnership with Cheshire West and Chester Adult Social Care to gather evidence against each of the nine defendants.

This evidence was then presented Chester County Court in July where the judge approved all nine injunctions. The injunctions contained a number of conditions which prevented the defendants from targeting vulnerable elderly people.

After safeguarding the victims PC Lowndes then went on to use the evidence that had been gathered as part of the initial investigation to peruse criminal proceedings against the nine original defendants, along with a tenth defendant who had been identified during the investigation.

All eight defendants were arrested on Wednesday 12 August 2015 when more than 50 officers executed warrants at addresses in Blacon, Leigh, Birkenhead and Styal.

Investigating Officer Leanne Lowndes said: “This has been a long and complex investigation which involved a network of people who preyed on the vulnerable and elderly, making their lives a misery.

“I am pleased with the conclusion of the case, and I hope that they bring some sort of closure for all of the victims that were affected.”

Inspector Brian Green from Chester LPU said “This investigation has been at the heart of everything we do with regards protecting vulnerable people.

“This investigation was launched after concerns from the public were brought to the attention of Police Community Support Officers who were engaging, listening and reacting to those concerns on their beats.

“It is very important that the public know that we’re here for them and see that we take their concerns seriously and they know we are here for them. I am delighted with the sentences that have been handed out by the Courts and it reinforces via the message that this despicable behaviour - targeting of the most vulnerable members of our communities - will not be tolerated.

“I want to thank all partners and police colleagues who have worked tirelessly to get us to this position and this should be a clear message moving forward that together we will robustly investigate and take action against those involved in this sort of activity”

 Sergeant Mandy Shaw, from Chester ASB Unit added:  “We monitor reports of this kind of behavior very closely, as it can often cause considerable distress for the victims and their families.

“I hope that the conclusion of this case gives people the confidence to come forward and report any concerns which they may have regarding vulnerable people in their area, by contacting Cheshire Police on 101.”