Clockwise from top left, Paul Rogers, Sanchez Atkinson, Jay O’Reilly, Nadir Khalfan and Jamie Smith
Published: 7 September, 2012
by PAVAN AMARA
SEVEN notorious gang members who openly dealt drugs from a children’s playground have been jailed for a total of 20 years.
But despite claims that the sentences have smashed the Easy Cash gang – which has made the lives of residents near the renowned Sadler’s Wells theatre a misery – anti-social behaviour is still rife, the Tribune has been told.
The jailing of the seven youths and men, aged between 16 and 21, followed a five-month police operation known as Faslane, which saw the 20-member gang watched 'round the clock as they operated in the Spa Fields Park and nearby Exmouth Market.
A series of charges were brought before Blackfriars Crown Court, including conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin, the theft of a BMW car, and a planned smash-and-grab robbery at handbag designer Anya Hindmarsh’s Bond Street store, which was foiled by police.
Last Thursday, Paul Rogers, 21, Sanchez Atkinson, 19, Jamie Smith, 19, Nadir Khalfan, 18, Jay O’Reilly, 19, and two teenage boys who cannot be named were sentenced to a total of 20 years behind bars.
On arrest, officers found a number of stolen mobile phones, thousands of pounds in cash and a sizeable quantity of Class A and B drugs. Previous criminal history of those sentenced involved violent street assaults.
But, although residents on nearby welcomed the sentences, they said that still more needed to be done to tackle anti-social behaviour.
Lyne Harrison, 53, who has lived on the Finsbury estate for more than 20 years, said: “I couldn’t be happier that some of them have been given tough sentences, but if you hadn’t told me I wouldn’t have guessed anything was different. Every night I can still hear them howling and laughing and making big noises.
“A neighbour’s daughter has changed her way back from work because they’re very intimidating. They haven’t touched her but she hears a lot of jibes about what they will do.”
Michael Coyle, 50, who has worked in Exmouth Market for 20 years, said: “They come on bikes through the market and basically try and terrorise people. Younger kids are frightened of them and there have been people they’ve assaulted.”
Mr Coyle said a police presence “put off” the men, who he says range from their late teens to early 20s.
Margaret Fitzsimmons, 28, who has two children and lives on the Finsbury estate, said she was “relieved to see police”. She added: “They get a lot quieter then. When the police don’t come they’ve got nothing to be scared off.
“There are a lot of drug deals going on around the children’s play area in Spa Fields Park, and people know that so they try and use the facilities in daylight when there are other people around. Even though I live close by I won’t be using the play area, because I don’t trust those men around my kids.”
When the Tribune spoke to youths on the estate they denied they were part of a “gang”.
“We aren’t a gang, we are young, we’re all men and we have allegiances,” one said. “If this is my boy [friend], and that’s my boy, and that’s my boy, it doesn’t make us a gang. If anyone says anything to him I’ll be there for him, but does that make us a gang?
“If we were all old men we’d still be thinking the same, but no one would say you’re a gang. The police are targeting young people. We don’t want to talk about the arrests. Okay, we’re not goody goodies but we don’t intimidate.
“We can’t even hang around without the police riding through, these people from the council coming and sitting with us. Everybody should leave us alone.”
Another added: “Easy Cash is a dated name, there’ll be a new name coming. Basically Easy Cash was started but not by us, but the police have always called us by that name just so it’s easier for them to target us. That name was a different era but things are changing.”
A 16-year-old said: “In all of our estates there’s nothing for us to do. If there was a youth club they would at least have the right to say to us to move there. But where do they want us to go? We’re not going to be like old men and sit watching the telly.”
Detective Constable Phelim Redmond and Det Con Adam Stoker, from Islington’s Crime Squad, said: “The EC Gang thought they were untouchable and that the normal rules of society didn’t apply to them.
“The fact they chose to openly deal Class A drugs from a children’s play park shows the total disregard they had for the community in which they all lived.”