Police shut down two 'crack' dens in Chester

Reporter:

Steve Creswell

TWO drugs dens in Chester have been shut down after causing months of misery for neighbours.

Cheshire Police used new
anti-social behaviour laws to secure ‘closure orders’ on 1 Heath Lane, Boughton Heath and 2A Queens Place in the city centre.

Chester Magistrates Court heard yesterday that both had become a hive of drug taking and dealing, with people seen queuing outside to get their fix.

Deputy District Judge Andrew Jebb described the first property as a “public health hazard” after hypodermic needles were found littered throughout the property.

Contractors boarding up the Great Boughton address told the Leader yesterday that needles had been found on the bed and on top of the microwave.

Both homes are owned by Sanctuary Housing and will be boarded up and off limits to anyone – including the tenants – for three months.

Shaun Shirtliff, 47, who lived at 1 Heath Lane, and Carol Gavigan, 53, of 2A Queens Place, attended court and did not object to the orders.

However, both took issue with some of the allegations made and the judge stressed it was the properties that were subject to the civil legal action by police, not the tenants.

Solicitor Richard Simm, representing Mr Shirtliff, said his client was very vulnerable and suffered severe anxiety and panic attacks.

The closure order would effectively sentence him to living on the streets as his paranoia meant he would not take up a ‘safe seat’ at the Richmond Court homeless hostel.

The judge said: “Doesn’t this show what an evil drugs are? As a result of this order, which has quite properly been sought to give residents some peace, this man who I accept is vulnerable is being made homeless while other people who are rarely before the courts make a fortune.

“Mr Shirtliff is not making money out of this – he has been used.”

In her statement to the court, PC Julia Williams said she had driven past the Heath Lane address while off-duty and saw a queue of people waiting outside.

Boughton Heath Primary School is just several minutes walk away while the Peacock pub and other shops are directly over the road from the property.

PC Williams – who led the application for the closure order – said she was delighted that neighbours could now live in peace, safe in the knowledge the drugs den had been shut down.

Representing the police in court, Elizabeth Heavey said numerous complaints had been made about the Heath Lane property dating back to 2016.

One resident described hearing a man screaming outside the front door that he was going to kill
Mr Shirtliff, while another threatened to burn the building down.

Warrants had been carried out at both addresses and while paraphernalia had been discovered at both, there were no drugs and not enough evidence to prosecute any individuals.

Police raided the Queens Place address, located next to the canal near The Lock Keeper pub, earlier this month after locals said there were frequent visitors.

A security guard working locally had also raised concerns about drug use and dealing at the home.

Miss Gavigan had ignored numerous warnings from both the police and housing officers about the alleged activity at her home which stretched back as far as 2015, the court heard.

The judge said: “I’m satisfied that drug taking and drug dealing is taking place in or around this property.”

Interim closure notices were placed on the properties on July 13 this year with the full orders granted yesterday.

Constable Julia Williams, of Chester Local Policing Unit who is the beat manager for the Great Boughton area, said yesterday: “The action taken today is a positive and pro-active response to the concerns of the local community.

“I cannot emphasise the relief that this Closure Order will bring to residents and businesses alike.

“The activity at this address [Heath Lane] caused alarm, distress and upset. The Closure Order is the right result for the community and it will have a positive impact on the area.

“Residents can now go about their daily business knowing that the order has been imposed and that anyone found breaching it will be prosecuted.

“I hope that this closure will serve as a warning that people who choose to behave in this way can lose their homes as a consequence of their actions.”

Email:

steve.creswell@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the Chester Leader

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