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Stratford man jailed for more than 20 years on firearms offences

Four men, including one from Stratford, have been sentenced to 75 years in prison overall for importing firearms to the country.

46-year-old Lee Cullen of The Avenue in Stratford-upon-Avon was sentenced to 21 years and eight months for conspiracy to supply prohibited firearms and ammunition.

It was the heaviest sentence out of the group - the other three men, all from Birmingham, received between 14 and 20 year sentences.

It's after a joint investigation by the Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU), Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police.

Cullen was found guilty, along with Laurence McCarthy, 44, of Tiddington Close, Birmingham, Paul Frith, 43, of School Lane, Shard End, Birmingham and Sean Edwards, 36, of Roshven Road, Birmingham, who all appeared at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday 29 June.

On 23 June 2017, a Vauxhall Insignia being driven by Paul Frith was stopped by officers in Birmingham. Concealed in the boot were two Glock handguns and 25 rounds of live ammunition. Cullen and Edwards were passengers in the vehicle, and all three were arrested.

A subsequent investigation provided evidence that McCarthy had imported the weapons from France, and on 12 March 2017 he had ordered eight blank firing Glock replica pistols, which would later be converted in order to fire live ammunition. He was arrested on 6 September 2017 in connection with the investigation.

All four were charged with conspiracy to supply prohibited firearms and ammunition. On  23 March 2018 McCarthy was found guilty following a three week trial. The other three men had pleaded guilty during the final week of the trial to the same offences.

At Friday's court appearance, the following sentences were issued:

Lee Cullen  - 21 years, eight months
Laurence McCarthy - 20 years 
Paul Frith - 19 years
Sean Edwards - 14 years

Detective Inspector Gough from the West Midlands Regional and Organised Crime Unit, said: "We are pleased with this result which is the culmination of many months of investigation, working with colleagues across our region to tackle the problem of serious organised crime.

"These men will now face substantial prison sentences for their involvement in these offences, and thanks to the diligence of officers and other investigating staff, we have been able to reduce the availability of weapons on our streets.

"I hope that this successful prosecution will encourage others who may have information regarding organised crime to come forward, and will send the message to those considering committing these offences that we will robustly investigate them and will ensure they are brought to justice."

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