TWO drug dealers have been jailed for shooting a man in the legs in Southampton.
In a case that has sparked a major police crackdown on gang-related drug activity in the city, Calvin Lawrence and Malachi Francis have both been imprisoned for 13 years for wounding with intent.
Southampton Crown Court was told it was probably a “drugs feud” that led the duo to shoot Suraj Singh Bhakar in both his legs at a flat in Vanguard Road, Southampton.
Mr Bhakar underwent surgery for four leg wounds after the shooting and needed “repeated hospital treatment” in the months afterwards.
As previously reported, school friends Lawrence, 26, and Francis, 27, both from London, both denied being involved with the shooting but were convicted last year of wounding with intent and possessing a handgun with intent to cause fear of violence. The court heard that Lawrence had 21 previous convictions – and had started dealing drugs at the age of 13.
Francis had 11 previous convictions for drugs and firearm offences and was on licence at the time of the shooting for possession of a sub machine gun and 36 live cartridges in 2007.
Sentencing the pair, Judge Derwin Hope said it was clear from the evidence that Lawrence was the leader.
But he said Francis’s previous firearm convictions were aggravating factors, and the pair should be treated equally.
Judge Hope said: “Mr Lawrence, you have a history of repeated violence and serious drug offences and you have admitted to a criminal lifestyle. You were involved in this shooting in Southampton even though your brother was shot in the past, which didn’t deter you.
“You have lived a long-term criminal lifestyle.”
Addressing both Francis and Lawrence, he added: “You deliberately targeted the victim, and he was shot in both legs before each of you made off together and sought to escape justice.
“I have no doubt that you intended him serious psychological harm as well as physical injury.”
Lawrence and Francis were both jailed for 13 years, with a further five years on licence for wounding with intent. They were jailed for nine years, to run concurrently, for possessing a firearm.
The shooting was one of the cases that sparked Hampshire Police’s Operation Fortress – a crackdown on drug dealers from London operating in Southampton.
Detective Inspector Adam Price, from the Hampshire Major Investigation Team, said: “We would like to acknowledge the support of witnesses who provided police with vital evidence in this investigation, bravely giving evidence against organised criminals in order to protect their communities.
“Hampshire Constabulary will, through Operation Fortress, continue to pro-actively target those who come into Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to deal and engage in drugs and drug-related violence.”