Seven members of an organised crime gang who brought violence and destruction to nearby communities over a weekend were all today (Thursday, September 7) given long jail sentences.

Jail terms totalling more than 94 years were handed down to the various gang members for their roles in bringing terror to the streets of Horden and Hartlepool over the weekend of January 7 and 8, this year.

They were involved in tit-for-tat ram raids when what was described as “a long-running bitter feud” with a rival gang erupted in reprisal attacks, which also saw cars torched and a shooting on a partly residential street.

Durham Crown Court heard that gang leader James Stephenson recruited trusted allies Wayne Griffin, Connor Ellison, Jonathan Miller, Shane Leigh, Graeme Oliver and Paul Frain to either take part in, or assist in transport before and after the offences.

The Northern Echo: Drug gang members jailed for more than a total of 94 years.  Top, from left, James Stephenson,

It led to a coordinated ram-raid attack and car arson on a house linked to a rival gang member, in which a woman was present and young children were sleeping, in Brunel Close, Hartlepool, on the evening of Saturday, January 7.

Read more: Thugs crash car into Hartlepool house and set another alight on drive

When the opposite faction launched a reprisal aggravated burglary on the home of one of the Stephenson gang, in Horden, the following afternoon, he quickly organised a swift counter-offensive.

It culminated in a confrontation and random shooting in Fifth Street, Horden, as the rival gang was in the throes of ram-raiding business premises owned by Stephenson.

A car chase followed through east Durham and vehicles involved in the crimes were later found burned out in Hartlepool and Coxhoe, near Durham.

The Northern Echo: One of the burnt out Mitsubishi Shogun cars

The use of digital and forensic investigative techniques amid rapid inquiries by detectives brought all seven of those involved under arrest within a few weeks.

Read more: Man charged with attempted murder after gun incident in Horden

The court heard that they largely refused to answer police questions at the time, but guilty pleas were finally forthcoming when the case was listed for trial at Newcastle Crown Court, in late June.

Although a jury was sworn, no evidence was heard when the acceptable pleas were tendered, so Judge James Adkin agreed to give each of the defendants 10 per cent discounts on their sentences.

James Stephenson, 32, of Leazes Rise, Peterlee, Wayne Griffin, 48, of North Avenue, Horden, Connor Ellison, 26, of Thorpe Crescent, Peterlee, Jonathan Miller, 31, of Jude Place, Peterlee, Shane Leigh, 22, of Braithwaite Road, Peterlee, and Paul Frain, 56, of Church House, North Road East, in Wingate, each admitted conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm and possession of a prohibited firearm.

Stephenson, Griffin, Ellison, Miller and 30-year-old Graeme Oliver, of Inchcape Terrace, Grants Houses, near Horden, all admitted possession of a prohibited firearm and arson.

The Northern Echo: Damage to shop in Fifth Street, Horden, during weekend feud between rival drug gangs

Leigh and Frain also admitted possessing a prohibited firearm.

Griffin also admitted possessing with intent to supply both cocaine and heroin, plus cultivating plants of the cannabis genus.

All but Leigh and Frain also admitted criminal damage with intent to endanger life.

Describing it as, “a sorry saga”, Judge Adkin told the defendants they were all involved in, “serious and organised criminality arising out of a feud”.

But he said: “The precise reason remains opaque with no specific catalyst, but it was unlikely to be a legitimate commercial dispute.”

Griffin, who was also found to be using his home to store tens of thousands of pounds worth of class A drugs, received a total sentence of 19 years and nine months.

Read next:

Three more charged after firearm shot at County Durham tanning salon

Hartlepool Police find drugs and weapons on morning raids

Pair jailed for theft from delivery driver who collapsed and died at scene, in Horden

Get more news, sport and entertainment from The Northern Echo delivered straight to your device. Click here.

Stephenson and Miller each received sentences of 16 years and nine months, of which they must serve two-thirds before being eligible for release on licence.

Sentences of 14 years were passed on Frain, 13 years for Ellison, nine years for Leigh and five years and four months for Oliver.

Judge Adkin thanked all the officers involved in the inquiry and specifically commended Detective Sergeant Samantha Young and Det Con Helen Tindale.