DRUGS squad detectives had a Crown Prosecution Service lawyer on speed dial this week as they step up efforts to tackle County Lines gangs.

Easier access to the lawyer seems to be paying off. Two people arrested in Monday’s raids were put before the courts on Wednesday on class A drugs supply charges.

But those cases seem to be the exception when set alongside the growing tendency for drugs cases to draw out for months.

That delay has prompted anger from judges at Swindon Crown Court, who have complained about the amount of time it takes police and the CPS to get cases from the street to the dock.

The case of one Old Town cocaine and cannabis dealer was last month labelled shambolic by Judge Jason Taylor QC.

Finn Nicholson’s bedsit was raided in May 2018, with police seizing drugs, cash, top brand trainers and four phones.

Analysing messages from those phones was cited as the reason for the 16-month gap in getting the case to the crown court.

This Is Wiltshire:

Swindon Crown Court

Prosecutor Tessa Hingston said: “That seems to be one of the factors why the drugs cases are taking so long to come through the system.”

Judge Taylor said: “It is wholly unsatisfactory. You’ve got somebody who is a young man but more importantly he’s been sentenced since for similar offences.”

Later that day, Judge Taylor was faced with the case of two Swindon teens who appeared in the dock 18 months after their homes were raided by drug detectives.

When one of the young men’s barristers raised concerns about the delay in amount of time his client had been released under investigation or on bail, the judge said: “It’s not the first case where we have had delay. I have already expressed my frustration.”

Last week, a man appeared before Swindon Magistrates’ Court accused of possession with intent to supply crack cocaine and heroin in Swindon. The charges date back to February 2016 and he will be sentenced at Swindon Crown Court on November 1.

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Armed police raid a house on Oxford Street in the Railway Village

Speaking after one of this week’s County Lines raids, Wiltshire police and crime commissioner Angus Macpherson said politicians needed to keep in mind the wider impacts of cuts: “The ‘addressing of the economy’ was about cutting everything. The lesson we should learn is when we make these cuts we do need to look at the affect in every sector. I think we’ve seen that In the reduction of criminal justice.

“We’ve done our very best to hold that and provide a service. The courts are under pressure, but we have a dedicated lawyer helping the team to make sure this week’s arrests are processed efficiently and quickly.

“We all know what we want to do. We just don’t have the money to do it.”

A CPS spokeswoman said: “County lines drug cases are really complex investigations, which involve large volumes of case materials. These cases often involve more than one offender. The use of social media is prevalent in number of drug cases and the analysis of mobile telephones at the investigation stage is often essential to secure the evidence required to build the case for prosecution."

“The role of the CPS is to build strong cases to put before the court. This requires a thorough investigation by the police and careful case preparation from the CPS, which can on occasion result in an increased length of time from an arrest to trial.

“The decision to move to a prosecution is a serious one as it can result in imprisonment and it is therefore only right that we take all the necessary legal and precautionary steps to ensure the process is fair, independent and that all the available of evidence has been assessed in order to bring an offender before the courts.”