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Private hire driver trafficking cocaine and heroin overseas jailed for six years

Updated: Feb 6, 2022

Image credit: Merseyside Police

A private hire driver who was involved in the supply of Class A drugs overseas to the Netherlands has been jailed for six years.

James Birch, aged 35 and from Liverpool, was sentenced to six years for money laundering and assisting or inducing the commission of an offence abroad this week at Liverpool Crown Court as part of Operation Venetic.

Birch, who used the encrochat handle 'Octobourne', is the latest to be sentenced as part of the Merseyside Police response to Operation Venetic: a national investigation into the use of encrypted mobile devices, commonly referred to as Encrochat.

Messages sent by Birch in 2020 said he considered it was too “risky” to continue to transport and supply drugs locally as a result of the national lockdown so he tried to take a self-imposed furlough, instead of returning to work as a private hire driver.

He then continued to be involved in the supply of drugs with others by facilitating arrangements for the supply of 10-20Kgs of heroin from one associate in Holland to another.

Birch also recorded payments and cash collected from the drugs he supplied in his messages, with one totalling £169,624 in May 2020.

On 15 December 2021 officers conducted a search of a property on Brookbridge Road, Clubmoor, Liverpool and arrested Birch on suspicion of conspiracy to supply controlled Class A drugs after they seized five mobile telephones.

Detective Inspector Paul McVeigh said: "Birch’s greed and covert messages via Encrochat revealed his clear involvement in an international distribution of Class A drugs including heroin and cocaine that spanned to the Netherlands.

“He clearly felt that the risk of his crimes being detected by police was too great here in Liverpool, but his attempts to evade justice by taking furlough and organising the supply of drugs further afield were also foiled, and that is a testament to the determination of officers here in Merseyside as well as other law enforcement agencies.

"We know the destruction that drugs and drug dealing causes and Merseyside Police remains relentless in our pursuit of those who cause misery no matter where they are sold.

"I would urge anyone with any concerns about illegal drug activity in their area to please pass on the information to us either directly to Merseyside Police or anonymously to Crimestoppers."


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