NINE men involved in a conspiracy to flood the streets of Merseyside with cocaine were jailed for a total of 55 years.
Ring-leaders Liam Johnson, 32, of Margaret Avenue, Bootle and David Hewson, 30 – who have been on the run since skipping bail in October – were sentenced in their absence at Liverpool Crown Court yesterday.
The pair, who are believed to have taken a ferry to the continent, were at the helm of a drug “wholesale” gang in Sefton who dealt with thousands of pounds worth of imported, high quality cocaine.
Sentencing both to 11 years and one month in prison for conspiracy to supply cocaine, Judge Norman Wright said the fact they were not in court had no bearing on their jail terms and that they would receive a further sentence when they were caught.
He added: “It is quite clear to me that these two men were leading players throughout. People at the very top of this sort of conspiracy do not like to touch the drugs.
“People at the top keep their distance and have other people take the risks.”
Six other men were jailed after pleading guilty to the same charge.
Lee Cuffe, 40, of Sefton Road and Kevin McDonald, 31, of Dickens Close, Crosby, were given six years and eight months.
Judge Wright said the pair acted as “important links” between the leading players in the conspiracy and could be “trusted” by those at the top.
Jamie Flynn, 23, of Rogers Avenue and Stephen Weston, 26, of Menai Road, both Litherland, were sentenced to four years, four months and four years, 10 months respectively.