Page last updated at 14:33 GMT, Tuesday, 7 April 2009 15:33 UK

Blow dealt to city's 'Wild West' gangs

By Judith Moritz
BBC News

Colin Joyce (left) and Lee Amos
Colin Joyce (left) and Lee Amos ran South Manchester's Gooch Gang

Eleven men have been found guilty of 26 charges - ranging from murder to drug dealing - after a trial exposed the workings of one of Britain's most notorious gangs.

Sentencing them, Mr Justice Brian Langstaff said: "Manchester is not the Wild West, but many of you treated the streets as if it were."

The Gooch Gang, which operates in south Manchester, has been locked in a feud with the equally infamous Doddington Gang for more than 20 years.

The police have repeatedly come up against a wall of silence while trying to tackle the gangs.

Sprayed bullets

While investigating the murder of schoolboy Jesse James, who was shot in Moss Side in September 2006, they appealed without success for gang members to come forward with information.

But the silence has finally been broken. Following the murders of two men in the summer of 2007, six gang associates came forward - three were given immunity from prosecution in return for their evidence.

Map of Manchester
Manchester is not the Wild West, but many of you treated the streets as if it were
Mr Justice Brian Langstaff

They were all given the status of protected witnesses and their testimony has been crucial in securing these new convictions.

It has led to what has been described as the most significant breakthrough in combating Manchester's gangs within the last decade.

The net started to close in after the murders of Ucal Chin and Tyrone Gilbert two years ago.

The men had connections with the Longsight Crew, a group affiliated to the Doddington Gang.

Ucal Chin was killed in a drive-by shooting in the Longsight area of Manchester on 15 June 2007.

Six weeks later a crowd of up to 100 people, including children, was gathered after the 24-year-old's funeral.

They were at Chin's wake when gunmen drove up and opened fire, spraying bullets into the crowd.

Significant dent

Some ricocheted off the walls of houses and others struck parked cars. Two mourners were hit directly. Tyrone Gilbert, aged 23, was killed. His friend Michael Gordon was injured.

Colin Joyce, 29, was found guilty of murdering both Chin and Gilbert and attempting to kill Mr Gordon.

In court, he smirked as the judge told him he would be retirement age before he is considered for release from prison.

Victims Tyrone Gilbert (left) and Ucal Chin
Tyrone Gilbert (left) was killed at the wake of Ucal Chin

Sentencing Joyce to two life sentences with a minimum of 39 years, Mr Justice Brian Langstaff said: "You were all involved in gang-related activity which is all too reminiscent of Al Capone and Chicago in the era of prohibition.

"Manchester is not the Wild West, but many of you treated the streets as if it were."

Lee Amos, 33, was convicted of killing Chin and trying to murder Gordon. He was sentenced to at least 35 years.

Aeeron Campbell, 25, Narada Williams, 28, and his brother Ricardo Williams, 26, were convicted of murdering Tyrone Gilbert. They were also found guilty of trying to kill Gordon.

Campbell was sentenced to life with a minimum of 32 years and Narada Williams was given a life sentence with a minimum term of 35 years.

Five other men connected with the defendants were convicted of various drugs and firearms charges. A sixth man pleaded guilty to similar charges. Ricardo Williams and the six others are due to be sentenced later.

All 11 men were members of the Gooch Gang. Although they now face jail, the police cannot claim to have taken the whole gang off the streets.

Sub-machine gun found in bushes
A sub-machine gun found discarded in bushes in Moston

Others are still operating under the Gooch banner, but the police say that they have made a significant dent in their ability to operate.

The trial has given a rare glimpse into the structure of Manchester's gangs, and the way they function.

The Gooch and Doddington gangs are the two main factions in south Manchester. They operate in areas including Moss Side and Longsight.

But they are not the only gangs in the city. Other, less well-known groups - including the Longsight Crew, the Old Trafford Cripz and the Longsight Street Soldiers - are affiliated to Gooch and Doddington.

None of the gangs have what can be described as "card-carrying" members, but those who belong to these groups are involved in a network, in which any connection - no matter how loose - counts as an affiliation.

Members are simply on one side, or the other.

Drugs trade

The gangs operate on a tiered structure. The Gooch Gang has three levels. Of the defendants in this trial, Colin Joyce and Lee Amos were the main players, running the gang.

Others worked under them, and were responsible for co-ordinating the supply and distribution of drugs.

Below them was a bottom tier of drug dealers, working on the streets of south Manchester, peddling heroin and cocaine as well as firearms.

Frobisher Close, Manchester
Tyrone Gilbert was murdered in a drive-by shooting in 2007

Before these men were brought to trial, the gang was selling up to £2,000 worth of drugs a day, with heroin being dealt in wraps costing as little as £10 each.

The dealers at the lowest level were allowed to keep up to £100 per day for themselves, with the rest of the profit being sent back up the chain to fund the further purchase of drugs.

The gang was making serious money, but police say that there is not much evidence of them living extravagantly as a result.

Those involved are thought to have been more bothered about their status than financial reward.

The gang has been responsible for a significant proportion of gun crime in Manchester. In fact, since January this year, there has not been a fatal shooting in the city.

Greater Manchester Police also say that there has been a 92% drop in gun crime in central Manchester since 2004, at which time both Joyce and Amos were in jail for possessing firearms.

Bringing these men to justice has been a huge task. More than 80,000 phone calls have been analysed.

The trial itself has been running since October. It has involved 22 barristers and a huge security presence at court. The cost will run into millions.

But you will not find a police officer in Manchester who does not think it has been worth it. Quite simply, they say that with these men behind bars, Manchester is a much safer place.

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