Page last updated at 16:57 GMT, Friday, 12 February 2010

'Hardcore' Leeds gang jailed for life

L-R: Dennis Slade, Richard Pearman, Michael Baxter
Slade [left] was the gang leader with henchmen Pearman and Baxter

Three "hardcore criminal gang members" who stole more than £1m from a security van and conspired to murder a 40-year-old man have been jailed for life.

Dennis Slade, 34, Richard Pearman, 35, and Michael Baxter, 34, all from Leeds, were described as "callous, dangerous and ruthless" as they were sentenced.

Slade was told by Judge Paul Hoffman at Leeds Crown Court he will serve at least 19 years and 206-and-a-half days.

Pearman and Baxter were given minimum terms of 17 years, 206-and-a-half days.

Their crimes included the robbery of a Securitas van in Woolston, Warrington, in 2006, using a digger to ram-raid a post office in Leeds in 2007 and conspiring to rob a cash machine at a Sainsbury's supermarket in Leeds.

All three were found guilty after a trial last August of conspiring to murder the 40-year-old Leeds man in 2008, as well as arson, criminal damage and handling stolen property.

I conclude all three of you are very callous, dangerous and ruthless men, particularly when you act as a gang
Judge Paul Hoffman

The defendants were found guilty of the robbery of the Securitas van on 8 March 2006, after a second lengthy trial, which ended last week and was held amid high security.

The jury also found Slade and Pearman guilty of the robbery at the Cross Gates post office on 12 December 2007, and two counts of conspiring to commit robbery between January 2007 and March 2008, which included the plot to rob the Sainsbury's store in Colton.

Baxter earlier admitted the post office robbery, the conspiracy to rob Sainsbury's and another count of conspiracy to commit robbery.

Judge Hoffman described Slade as the "instigator" and "architect" of the crimes, and said Pearman and Baxter were his "loyal henchmen and followers in crime".

He said: "You three were an inseparable trio of hardcore criminal gang members.

"It's plain all three of you men are dedicated to serious crime.

"I conclude all three of you are very callous, dangerous and ruthless men, particularly when you act as a gang."

Life of crime

The court heard how leader of the gang Slade lived with his wife and five children in a valuable property in Alwoodley, Leeds, and drove a number of expensive cars.

He had nine convictions for 64 offences, the first being when he was 14 years old.

As he was taken from the courtroom, Slade, who continues to deny all the offences, said: "Would have been nice to get a fair trial. We'll see what the Court of Appeal says."

The three men were told they would remain on licence for the rest of their lives and Slade was also handed a serious crime prevention order banning him from using the internet while in prison.

A fourth defendant, James Hudson, 26, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to rob the Sainsbury's store and the robbery of the Post Office, will be sentenced at a later date.

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