A man has been jailed for eight years and eight months at Taunton Crown Court after admitting forcing a woman to transport drugs as part of county lines drug supply to the Sedgemoor area.
Miekel Lambert, 26, of Wolverhampton, had previously admitted offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, coercive behaviour (Serious Crime Act 2015) and being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs (cocaine and heroin).
He was sentenced at Taunton Crown Court today (Friday 17 July) and in addition to the prison term, he was given a 30-year Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Order, which has a condition preventing him from entering Somerset. It also places restrictions on his use of electronic devices and bans him from organising travel or booking accommodation for anyone else.
At the hearing, Judge Paul Cook described Lambert’s actions as “violent, sadistic and contemptuous” and he said no trafficking victim should be “allowed to become invisible”. The Judge awarded Crown Court commendations to Detective Constables Dave Allan and Harvey Ahern, who led the investigation.
Lambert’s activity came to light when his victim fled from his car after they stopped for fuel on the A38 on the evening of Sunday 23 February and sought refuge at Almondsbury Sports and Social Club.
Concerned staff and customers in the club called the police to help the terrified woman and Lambert left the area. He was arrested the following night, 24 February, at Sedgemoor Services on the M5 in Somerset.
Lambert was found to be part of a so-called “county lines” operation supplying drugs in the Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge area. The investigating officers were able to show that Lambert forced the woman to make up wraps of cocaine and heroin at addresses in Wolverhampton, Bristol and Bridgwater and hide them inside her body while he trafficked her by car or train.
“The feeling of paranoia and being trapped throughout, knowing Miekel Lambert and the things that he did to me, have left me feeling isolated. They prevent me from living my life to the full and I don’t know when things will truly get back to normal for me, if they ever will.
“Miekel had the opportunity to stop this for me at any point – and end the trauma. Instead he prolonged this ordeal for as long as possible, simply to try and avoid justice. I am glad that this has been brought to an end but I feel this is only because Miekel would like to spare himself the ordeal.”from the victim’s impact statement
The officer in the case, DC Harvey Ahern, said: “Many people have contributed to this outcome which has seen a man prepared to use violence to force his partner into acting as a drug courier put behind bars. Most importantly I want to thank the victim for showing such tremendous courage, and also the members of the public who came to her aid at the critical moment. Somerset CID, colleagues across the force and the Crown Prosecution Service have worked tirelessly to build a case against which Miekel Lambert could present no defence.”
DC Dave Allan, who also worked on the case, added: “I hope this demonstrates our commitment to supporting people affected by domestic abuse as well as the help we can offer to vulnerable people who feel trapped and coerced into drug crime. We hope this woman can now rebuild the life which was shattered by Miekel Lambert’s crimes.”
This is one of the first occasions in which a human trafficking conviction has been secured in a domestic abuse or county lines case in the Avon and Somerset policing area – and one of very few nationally.
If you are affected by domestic abuse, or concerned about a friend or family member, find out more about the support available
Find advice and support on drug misuse in Somerset or pass on information about drug crime
Alternatively ring the independent charity Crimestoppers 100 per cent anonymously on 0800 555 111. They never ask your name or trace your call.
Find out more about modern slavery and human trafficking, how to report it and the support available.