THREE East Lancashire men involved in a major cannabis supply chain have been jailed for a total of eight years three months.

Thomas Beard Snr, 51, and Thomas Beard Jnr, 29, both of Longsight Road, Blackburn, together with Nigel Monk, 44, of Southport House, Sawley were all sentenced at Preston Crown Court after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply a class B drug.

The case follows an investigation by Lancashire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit during which saw officers uncover cannabis valued at around £550k which had been smuggled into the country.

Monk was jailed for two years four months years, Beard Snr was given three years eight months abd Beard Jnr was given two years three months.

The first cannabis haul, around 76.4 kgs, was found after officers stopped a van just off on the M57 motorway in Merseyside on September 19.

The driver, 32-year-old Terrence Culshaw, of Woolheath Avenue, Liverpool was subsequently jailed for 32 months after pleading guilty to possession with intent to supply cannabis at Liverpool Crown Court.

Following this, officers carried out an investigation linking Beard Snr and McGuffie to the supply chain.

On November 16, police spotted a HGV being driven by Duncan McKee, who was sentenced to three years one month, delivering a pallet to the home of Nigel Monk.

On opening the pallet it was found to contain a number of stone pot plants in which 113kg of cannabis resin had been concealed.

It was later established the load had been brought over from Spain.

Speaking after the sentencing, Det Insp Simon Brooksbank, said: “This has been a long and complicated investigation during which we uncovered a large amount of cannabis that had been concealed in plant pots and smuggled into the country.

“As a result we have prevented the drugs from making their way onto our streets, where they would ultimately have caused harm to our communities.

“The sentences given to these men reflect the organised way in which they carried out their crimes and will hopefully serve as a warning to others who are considering such an enterprise.

“We are determined to target those involved in drug supply chains and will do all we can to put them behind bars.”