IN OUR 2020 Christmas Gift Guide, we pointed out that dashcams were becoming increasingly useful in clearing up insurance claims, road collisions and other driving incidents. If you’re a drug smuggler, though, you may want to think twice before purchasing one.
Robert Brooks, the leader of a £58m drug-smuggling ring based in Hertfordshire, has been jailed for 21 years after his own dashcam recorded the distribution of heroin and cocaine. The operation to arrest those involved in the conspiracy, the largest to have ever been investigated by Hertfordshire police, was documented on the Channel 4 programme 24 Hours in Police Custody earlier this week.
A police officer, who preferred to remain anonymous, said it would have been “a lot harder” to convict Brooks had it not been for the “complacency, stupidity and lack of attention to detail” that led to the illegal activity being recorded on the dashcam.
The footage enabled officers to identify Stephen Capp, 56, of Hull, whose job involved transporting the drugs to the North of England. The Eastern Regions Special Operations Unit officer said: “Officers had to watch hours of footage of nothing on the dashcam in order to find a five-minute snippet of gold.” Capp has been jailed for nine years and six months.
The officer, identified only on the programme as “Dave”, also said: “I’m still quite shocked Brooks was stupid enough to have it in his car and have it recording when someone picked up the commodity.”
In August 2019, two officers from the unit intercepted the final two of 39 deliveries, seizing 70kg of cocaine and 45kg of heroin. The drugs were hidden in boxes of spider catchers being sent over from Holland.
Brooks, 51, oversaw the UK side of the drug-smuggling operation, which is believed to be connected to suppliers in Europe and further afield. Brooks and three other men are estimated to have brought into the country 1.8 tons of Class A drugs over a period of around 10 months, disguising the activity under Brooks’ business ‘Happy Days Campers’.
Brooks was a part-time driving instructor with no previous convictions. The dashcam, which recorded for 24 hours a day, was mounted to his red Ford Fiesta, which police believe he used for driving lessons. The CCTV in the unit where the activity took place had been broken, although it is not clear if the criminals were responsible for this.
The dashcam footage also placed Brooks in the unit, in Hunsdon, Hertfordshire, which contradicted his initial insistence to police that he wasn’t involved in the operation.
The officer said: “They [the criminals] were operating at an extremely high level and were well connected in the UK and internationally. They had pulled it off 37 times before and after every success maybe they got a bit complacent.”
Two other men, Richard Campbell and Tomasz Wozniak, have also been jailed for their involvement in the drug smuggling operation. Campbell, described as a “warehouse manager” in the documentary, was sentenced to 13 and a half years in prison for conspiracy to evade the prohibition of Class A drugs, while Wozniak was sentenced to six years and three months for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.