TWENTY-TWO people appeared in court over drugs, firearms, violence and money laundering offences.
The 18 men and four women, 13 of whom are from the Merseyside area, appeared at Preston Crown Court yesterday, where dates for three separate trials were fixed.
It is thought it will take until late this year to deal with all of the defendants, who were arrested in a series of swoops by the North west regional crime squad, Titan, last year.
Rachel Clarke, 35, of Westerdale Drive, Banks; Lynn Murphy, 41, of Whinberry Drive, Kirkby; Maria Clarke, of St Helens Well, Tarleton; and Claire Fisk, 36, of Grovewood Gardens, Whiston, are all charged with offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The four women were bailed to appear before the court again on April 29, along with Kevin Whitfield, of Dalton Drive, Wigan. A date for their trial was fixed for September 30.
Stephen Clarke, 44, of Westerdale Drive, Banks and Peter Clarke, 34, of Glebelands, Tarleton, appeared via video link from Preston Prison, charged with conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs, firearms offences, conspiracy to cause bodily harm and conspiracy to blackmail. They were remanded in custody.
Gordon Fisk, 37, of Grovewood Gardens, Whiston; Sean Johnson, 33, of Bank Street, Southport; and Paul Lawler, 35, of Westerdale Drive, Banks, appeared also via video link from Wakefield prison.
All three were remanded in custody and are charged with conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs. Johnson and Lawler are also charged with firearms offences.
Mark Higgins, 35, of Hesdon Green, Huyton, was charged with possession of criminal property and conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs and was bailed.
Kevin Dally, 43, of Moorbridge Close, Bootle, and Anthony Rimmer, 40, of Trevelyan Street, Walton, are charged with conspiracy to cause gross bodily harm and conspiracy to blackmail and were also bailed. Mark Wyatt, 33, of Barkfield Avenue, Formby, is also charged with conspiracy to supply Class B drugs and was bailed.
The court heard three separate indictments, one concerning drugs and firearms, one concerning violence and one money laundering, would be dealt with at three different trials.
The drug indictment trial, which is expected to last 10 weeks, was fixed for April 29, the violence trial for September 2 and the money laundering for September 30.
A 15-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, will stand trial for a firearms offence on a separate date.