The leaders of a gang that brought hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of cannabis to the South West has been jailed after they were caught handing over seven kilograms of drugs.

Grower Jeremy Williams and at least one associate were growing the cannabis in South Wales and making weekly trips to hand over the product at venues including Taunton and Honiton.

The police swooped in the car park of the Haldon Forest Diner, on the A38 near Chudleigh, as Williams was dropping off the crop in a laundry bag and picking up £22,720 in exchange.

The cannabis was destined to be sold on the streets of Plymouth, where cleaning company boss Jason Goodman had turned to drug dealing during the first Covid lockdown in 2020.

He arranged 26 different deliveries from Wales between May and October 26, 2020, when police intercepted the final hand over.

Both Goodman and Williams had drawn members of their family into the business, with Goodman’s father Michael making three trips to pick up drugs and Williams’s wife Susan helping to grow them at their home in Port Talbot.

He also enlisted a friend who lived nearby to help and he was later found five adult plants and five seedlings in a growing tent capable of producing £12,000 worth of cannabis a year.

Goodman controlled many of the handovers by phone from his home in Plymouth and sent convicted killer Francis Fletcher to oversee eight of them. He had been freed from a life sentence after serving seven years for killing a Royal Marine with a single punch in a fight in 2000. The total value of the drugs amounted to hundreds of thousands of pounds and the profits helped both Jason Goodman and Williams survive the pandemic.

Jason Goodman, aged 32, of Stonehouse Road, Plymouth; his father Michael, aged 60, of Hollywood Terrace, Plymouth; Jeremy Williams, aged 64, of Morfa Road, Port Talbot; Fletcher, aged 47, of Wanstead Grove, Plymouth; all admitted conspiracy to supply cannabis.

Jason Goodman was jailed for four years and one month, Williams for four years and nine months, and Fletcher for a year and nine months by Judge Anna Richardson at Exeter Crown Court.

Michael Williams was given a suspended sentence of 15 weeks.

Susan Williams, aged 59, and Richard Ludbrook, aged 47, of Ty R Owen Drive, Cwmavon, both admitted production of cannabis and were both ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid community work.

The judge said: ‘Cannabis affects thousands of families whose children may use it as a stepping stone drug which may affect their mental health or harm their life chances.’

Mr Peter Coombe, prosecuting, said that Michael Goodman and Fletcher were arrested at the Haldon Forest Diner as they took delivery of seven kilos of cannabis, worth up to £35,000 in a laundry bag in exchange for £22,720 cash.

Phone evidence showed Williams or associates in Wales had made 26 trips, meeting Goodman or his proxies at Taunton, Honiton, or Exeter.

Williams was found with six plants in a sophisticated three-lamp growing space which could nurture 27 plants at any one time and produce three harvests a year.

Defence lawyers for Williams and Jason Goodman said they were driven into the business by the economic effects of the pandemic and lockdown. Lawyers for the others said they played lesser roles and were following the orders of the two leaders.