A DRUG-DEALING operation targeting South Cumbria has been smashed by detectives.

Suppliers and dealers in dangerous drugs have been jailed and heroin, crack cocaine and cannabis taken off the streets following a year-long operation.

Prison sentences totalling more than 44 years have been handed down as a result of the joint Cumbria and Merseyside investigation code-named Operation Axe.

An Ulverston man and woman are among 23 people convicted for their involvement in the supply of Class A and Class B drugs in the area.

Debbie Paisley, 27, of Lancaster Square, received a five months prison term suspended for 12 months for involvement in the distribution of Class A drugs, and Wayne Watt, 39, also of Lancaster Square, received a six months sentence.

Det Con Jamie Eaton, of Barrow, said the area’s drugs squad had worked ‘tirelessly’ to bring the operation to a successful conclusion.

“This was a lucrative business but by hard work and dedication we were able to break down this network. Over the course of a year, 23 people from Furness and Liverpool have been convicted.

“Operations of this kind are extremely complex and involve hours of dedication from officers. I hope that the sentences passed in court send out the message that anyone who thinks that getting involved in drugs or serious crime can pay should think again.”

He added that the insular nature of South Cumbria meant that drug dealing could be a very ‘lucrative business’ for criminals.

During the operation police recovered £13,205 worth of drugs and £7,585 in cash.

DC Eaton said Operation Axe was a follow-up to Operation Snowstorm, which saw 12 people arrested for their roles in supplying drugs.

“Although successful, Cumbria police were still aware of drug dealers in Merseyside distributing in Cumbria,” said DC Eaton.

“Operation Axe was a huge operation, with community support officers, uniform police and covert officers all involved.”

Helen Davies, from the Cumbria Alcohol and Drugs Advice Service (CADAS), described drug dealing as a ‘constant battle’.

She said she had seen a rise in referrals for people needing help with drug and alcohol issues – although it was difficult to say whether that was because more services were available or because the problem was larger.

Last year, the charity had 25 referrals from the Kendal area, including people reaching out for help or doctors referring patients for support. In comparison there were 181 referrals from Barrow and Ulverston.

DC Eaton added: “Although this was a very successful operation we will never be able to stop the dealing of drugs – dealers will always look to South Cumbria to work from.

“That is why we appeal to the public to report any suspicious behaviour in their street. In essence, that is how a lot of arrests were made – the vigilance of the public.

“We hope the sentences will act as a deterrent for others in the area. If you are going to supply drugs it is only inevitable that you will go to prison.”

Ms Davis added: “Where there are humans there will always be problems with drugs, regardless of the area. Cumbria is no different.”