UK & World News
Lorries Targeted In New Smuggling Crackdown
Lorry drivers involved in the smuggling of illegal goods such as drugs and guns into the UK are being targeted in a new police campaign.
Operation Hedgehunter is a year-long crackdown on contraband material being taken to the North West from overseas via haulage companies.
In September lorry driver Stephen Newland from Burscough, Lancashire, was jailed for eight and a half years after Border Force officials found 45 kilos of cocaine worth £8m hidden in a false bulkhead in his cab.
In the same month, businessman Gary Pattinson from Hull was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment for plotting to import high quality cocaine into the country hidden in boxes of flowers.
Detective Chief Inspector Janet Hudson, the senior investigating officer for the operation, said: "Almost all organised crime affecting the North West involves commodities like drugs, weapons or contraband crossing our borders illegally and end up fuelling crime on the streets of our communities and damaging people's lives.
"By targeting rogue elements within the haulage industry we are disrupting this supply chain, driving the criminal element out of trucking and firing a warning shot across their bows that we are going to be looking very closely at their business practices.
"The vast majority of firms are run by decent, law-abiding people who are simply trying to run a legitimate business and make a living. But they are not competing on a level playing field because some of their rivals are using the proceeds from organised crime to expand their business unfairly.
"My message to them is help us put a stop to this by sharing what you know about suspicious or illegal activity in your industry."
The haulage industry turns over £64bn each year, employing 220,000 people and operating 425,000 vehicles.
Police and other agencies will be carrying out roadside examinations of heavy goods vehicles being driven on motorways to check if they are carrying any illegal loads or have committed any traffic offences.
Leaflets with an image of a set of truck doors with the slogan: "Illegal load on board?" will be placed by Border Force officers in the passports of truck drivers going through security checks at key ports.
The operation is supported by Crimestoppers, the Border Force, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, HM Revenue & Customs as well as all six regional police forces.