The leaders of a Bradford-based organised crime gang that flooded Harrogate with heroin and crack cocaine have been jailed for over 25 years.

Qasib Hussain, 25, of HMP Wetherby, previously of Idle Road, Bradford, his brother Aqib Ali Hussain, 24, of Killinghall Road, and Hussain Khan, 25, of Greenway Road, Bradford, operated a county line drug dealing set-up. 

Known as the “Pat Line”, their operation targeted vulnerable drug users in Harrogate. 

“County lines” is the term given to a form of organised crime in which drug dealers, usually from urban areas, such as West Yorkshire or Manchester, target smaller towns and cities.

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It takes its name from the mobile phone lines used by dealers to advertise drugs for sale. Violence and intimidation are prevalent within county lines. It is a key, operational priority for North Yorkshire Police

Harrogate drug dealers, Natalie Hullah, 33, previously of Harrogate, but now of St Edmund’s Street, Manchester, and Melissa Nicole Barnwell, 49, of Skipton Road, Harrogate, were recruited by the gang to sell the drugs locally in return for payment in heroin or crack cocaine.

The Pat Line was one of three lines that were shut down by North Yorkshire Police through a Drug Dealing Telecommunications Restriction Order in 2020.

Qasib Hussain dictated the movement of large quantities of class-A drugs from West Yorkshire into North Yorkshire.  This was done through the use of couriers who travelled from Bradford to Harrogate where the drugs were sold following a bulk text message sent from Qasib Hussain to drug users in Harrogate. 

The Pat Line predominantly remained with Qasib Hussain in Bradford where he conducted his operation but on occasion, it was passed to others to manage such as his brother, Aqib Ali Hussain.

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Aqib’s role included topping up the county line handsets and travelling to and from Harrogate to oversee the smooth selling of the drugs. Hussain Khan would step into Aqib’s role if Qasib was elsewhere.

During their investigation, police were able to prove that Aqib Ali Hussain had made multiple journeys to Harrogate, including 16 separate journeys over three consecutive days, each one lasting around half an hour before he returned to Bradford.

The top trio were linked to the two phone numbers of the Pat Line through analysis of phone data messages, CCTV of them topping up the phones at local shops, and text messages between the group and their local dealers talking about how much they had made.

All five were charged with conspiracy to supply class A drugs and pleaded guilty in 2021. 

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Qasib Hussain was jailed for nine years and nine months, and Aqib Ali Hussain for six years and nine months, as well as being sentenced to an additional two years and three months in relation to another investigation in West Yorkshire, bringing the total term of imprisonment to nine consecutive years. 

Hussain Khan will be in prison for six years and three months, where as local Harrogate dealers received suspended sentences.

Melissa Barnwell got 32 months suspended for two years, six months of Drug Rehabilitation Requirement and complete 25 days of rehabilitation activity

Natalie Hullah received 21 months suspended for two years and must complete 21 days of rehabilitation activity

Detective Chief Inspector Fionna McEwan of North Yorkshire Police, said: “Today’s outcome is a result of a lengthy and painstaking investigation. We are pleased to finally see the results in court.

“They flooded Harrogate with drugs, making money at the expense of local users, the majority of whom were vulnerable due to their socioeconomic background and mental health conditions. 

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“Drug dealing and the violence and exploitation that accompanies county lines remains a foremost priority for North Yorkshire Police. 

“We urge anyone with information to continue to report information about drug dealing in their area. It’s vital in helping us piece together the bigger picture.

“No matter how insignificant you think the information is, please call us. And if you don’t want to speak to us, you can pass information anonymously to Crimestoppers.”