This is the original text of a piece I wrote on the Operation Julie story - Britain's largest LSD bust - as Dick Tracy for the NME (published March 18th, 1978) shortly after the verdicts had gone down. Published over two pages with pics (can you imagine that in the NME now). Additional research by Mike Marten.
It is very much of its time and I think reflects the widespread community/ street feeling that the whole thing had been hyped up to fit authoritarian agendas through the mouthpiece of the national press. Also that the sentences were savage.
"Never in the history of British crime has the police public relations been so effective and so exaggerated. It has been accepted blindly and blithely by all concerned."
- Defence lawyer
In an incredible display of media hand-holding, the official version of the Operation Julie story has now been splashed across the headlines of the press and featured on primetime TV.
It's a comforting picture of police efficiency smashing an evil international drug network so that the schoolkids of our nation can be protected from the threat of that of "heaven-or-hell" drug LSD. Comforting maybe — but accurate?
Simply put, the police offered the press their version of an exciting story, and they took it hook, line and sinker.
Of course, in a story this complicated, where everyone has an axe to grind, there is no such thing as he "ultimate truth". But in choosing to serve up only the police version of the story, and lace it with biased comment and questionable facts, most of the national media have shown themselves once-again to be unreliable and only too willing to cooperate with the authorities.
What follows is an attempt to show up some of the media inconsistencies, and to provide some alternative views on what the BBC described as "the most sustained and successful police investigations ever carried out."
In order to fully understand the police's attitude and hence the press's stand on Operation Julie, it is necessary to realise that the whole affair had a great deal to do with internal police politics.
The 28-strong Julie team, seconded from eleven different police forces, worked outside the traditional police structures as an elite crew, and their activities formed the basis for Det Chief Supt Greenslade's vision for a national drug squad.
The team, characterised by the Mirror as "a handful of shabby supercops", were so secretive that, according to The Times, even the Metropolitan Police did not know about the planned raids until the last possible moment.
The Julie squad used every available trick in the book to break the case. At the farm in
Foremost among these was Detective Sergeant Martin Pritchard, described by the Mail as "more hippy than policeman".Interestingly, the Mirror, who published his own story, revealed that they had taken a picture of Pritchard when he had to give evidence after he bust a cannabis racket in 1975. He said:"The Daily Mirror published a rear-view picture of me so that it wouldn't blow my cover."
Even Detective Chief Inspector Lee, the operations expert from the Thames Valley Drug Squad, indulged in fancy dress, posing as "a
The main leads were provided by Ron Stark, a former associate who shopped the others when busted for heroin in
As the Mail pointed out, Lee knew of the existence of the acid factory at the Welsh Mansion House in Carno for some time before the final raids. According to them: “He knew the drugs from the Mansion House would be distributed throughout the world. He knew they would be taken by young pople whose lives could be ruined – they might even die as a result. He knew he could stop their sale by raiding the house, he decided not to. This the Mail presented not as a criticism but as a picture of Lee’s heroic dilemma
Perhaps as a result of Lee's delay tactics, two key figures — the international dealer American Paul Annabaldi and an Israeli named Zahi — escaped cdespite being under surveillance for some time.
Following their success, real or overstated, Greenslade and others began pushing their idea for a super-police unit – an FBI style national drug squad – who, they claimed, would be able to combat the drug menace more effectively. Many papers took their lead and made their own demands for such a force to be set up – notably the Mirror and the Express.
All the comments on this — including the bitter denunciations by the six members of the Julie squad who have resigned amidst complaints about "penny-pinching" by Whitehall, and their bitching about the police treating them as regular coppers rather than continuing the impetus of Operation Julie into a special force — should be seen in this context: as an attempt to pressurise the Home Office into setting up a special task force which neither they nor most local chief constables deem necessary. Greenslade boasted: "The operation was successful beyond my wildest dreams. This could pave the way for a national police force." Presumably, also in his dreams, with Detective Chief Superintendent Greenslade at the helm.
It was obvious that following the-huge police operation, including dawn raids by 800 police on March 26 1977, that much would have to be made of this case in order to justify the huge expenditure involved.
Greenslade was at pains to point out in the press that: "In two years' operation Julie cost £500,000 - but normal wages, transport and expenses have to be deducted. We hope to reciver enough in cash and property so that it will have cost
THE NUMBERS GAME
Throughout the press reporting on the Julie case, numbers have been thrown about with gay abandon. How much LSD was actually produced?
The Mail claims 15 million doses; the Times 20-60 million, supplying a dozen countries. The Mirror claimed that in 1976 alone the gang’s turnover reached an estimated £200 million — equal to that of the British Homes Stores. This is disputed by the defence lawyer we spoke to - he claimed that the total syndicate take was nearer £700,000:throughout their entire operations.
Then there was the question of what fraction of the total LSD market the syndicate's output represented. The Mirror claimed it was "two-thirds of the world's supply," the BBC News said 90 per cent of Britain's and 60 percent of the world's supply, while-Greenslade told the Express: "In our view 95 percent of LSD in Britain was coming from this source and so was half the world's supply " Of course, these things are impossible to gauge, but the mere act of printing them renders them 'official'. When it came to the street price the estimates were even more diverse. The Express claimed that it was £l a tab when the syndicate was in operation but that, since the bust, the street price had shot up to £5 or even £8 a tab, a fact quoted in court. On the other hand, the Times said: "Last week in
Release, who are closer to the street than any Fleet Street journalist is ever likely to get, told Thrills that bulk price was now £40 for 4,000 (l0p a tab) with street price at £1. They also claimed that LSD, far from drying up, is now "almost as easily obtainable as cannabis ', putting the lie to the police's claim to have wiped out
Other random statistics appeared in print with no hint as to where they came from. An unknown 1973 survey was quoted which suggested that 600,000 people in
It has been standard practice in the British and American media for many years now to distort the true nature of the drug LSD. Medical research into the subject has been officially frowned on, but nevertheless there is a considerable body of evidence available, enough to refute most of the basic untruths. Needless to say, medical facts were ignored in favour of selling newspapers. Operation Julie provided the press with a field day, allowing them to dust off all the old cliches and trot them out into print.
The Mirror did not miss a trick in this respect. Their headline story read: "An entire city stoned on a 'nightmare drug — that was the crazy ambition of the masterminds behind the world's biggest LSD factory. They planned to blow a million minds simultaneously by pouring LSD into the reservoirs serving
The piece continued: ‘Her father said: “She liked pop records but many of them by people like David Bowie mentioned drugs. I suppose she didn't want to be square and felt she had to 'try it'.” Other young people who ended up in hospital from an LSD trip have lived — or rather, have not died. They have stayed there staring at the walls, transfixed with a terror they cannot explain and cannot be freed from."
Ironically, in a moment of high comedy, proof of LSD effects were provided by three policemen, who accidentally tripped out while cleaning up one of the acid factories.None of them jumped
out of the windows or became uncontrollably homicidal. Nonetheless, the Police Federation is now backing their claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.
Mind you, the press were only following the lead of the police. In the Guardian a police spokesman said that half the admissions to mental hospitals in the
The police in turn were supported in their attitude by the trial judge,
Surprisingly only the BBC report by their science correspondent provided an accurate analysis of the drug's effect, pointing out, for instance, that it is not addictive.And nobody at all mentioned the fact that acidheads have gone almost totally underground these past few years — or, at least, acid has become completely unfashionable.
The defendants stood little chance, it seems, against the weight of public opinion which, in turn, was shaped by the media. They were variously described as the "international firm of L.S.D. (Unlimited)" and "one of the most educated teams of criminals the world has ever known."
The Guardian said "the flower of British post-war education were in the dock" and, described them as a mixture of evangelists, middle-aged Americans and get-rich-quick merchants, many of them
Christine Bott and Richard Kemp were typically characterised as star-crossed lovers and tarnished idealists but, as Release pointed out, by providing the finest quality acid ever produced, Kemp ... could be claimed to have been providing “community service". His acid was "less likely to have negative effects" due to the fact that the impurities, which often cause the teeth grinding and stomach churning which sometimes lead to bummers, had been removed.
The Leary connection was another interesting aspect of the case's coverage. There was no hard evidence to support this, of course, but mention LSD and you're bound to find
Even worse was the piece in the Evening Standard headlined: EXPLODING THE MYTH OF POP FESTIVALS. It read: ‘The myth that free pop festivals were innocent happenings where youth did its own harmless thing and sought peace through flower power has been finally exposed by the Operation Julie drugs trials.’ They further claimed that, at the trial, ‘pop festivals and the vast open-air happenings were finally shown up in their true form — as gatherings financed out of LSD manufacturing profits to attract hard-core drug takers with sufficient numbers of innocent fans to cover up the illicit drug trafficking and introduction to the drugs scene of new recruits.’ So much for the Standard's understanding and attitude towards the youth culture.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of the whole affair is the lack of support and interest from the 'hip' or head community. International Times editors Max Handley and Lyn Solomon (David'sdaughter) are writing a book on the whole affair, all royalties from which will got to the defendants - most of whom are appealing.
But a few short years ago Kemp and Co would have been hailed as "psychedelic outlaws". Now it seems most people are content to accept the official word on the subject and go back to their Bovril and bedroom slippers. On the other hand, many people I spoke to were beside themselves with anger at the whitewash job performed on the affair.
The only positive aspect of the case is that many lawyers, angry at the sentencing, are planning to push for a new law which would make the appropriate distinctions between LSD and other hard drugs like heroin, and change sentencing policy accordingly. After all, the people involved in the largest heroin ring ever busted in
Only one thing is going to change this kind of inconsistency in the law — an inconsistency fostered by the police and perpetrated by the national press — and that's concerted pressure in the face of public witch-hunts such as Operation Julie. Pressure from you.The republished book 'The Brotherhood of Eternal Love' (see previous post),records what has happened to some of the main protagonists since this story was written.
'Ron Stark was the man who linked the activities of the Brotherhood and the LSD chemists who succeeded them in Britain. He died in a San Francisco hospital in 1984, from heart disease...
'The chemists and dealeers caught in Operation Julie have largely disappeared. David Solomon, who started the English connection, is dead. His chemist Richard Kemp and Kemp's girldfriend Christine Bott, apparently retreated into anonymity after serving their sentences. Henry Todd served seven and a half years of a thirteen year sentence and then followed his love of mountaineering ot Nepal and a career running one of the largest climbing supply companies. By his mid- 50s he had become a ccontroversial legend among climbers in the Himalayas for his no-frills operation based in Nepal. In the summer of 2006 he and two others faced a private prosecution for manslaughter mommounted by the family of a climber who died climbing on Everest but the case was thrown out.
'Dick Lee, the man who put Todd behind bars, left the police to become a freelance journalist and shop-owner. His book on the investigation drew sharp criticisms from former coplleagues who felt he had gone too far in describing police operations such as telephone tapping, not normally discussed publicly at that time.'