LSD? Read on …

LSD was seized in massive quantities by the Operation Julie team of detectives in 1977. I was part of that team of detectives and I am making good progress on my book.

Here is a draft of the first part of the new book – [Edit – although much of this content remains, the book has now been rewritten and chapters reorganised. For an updated version of the first chapter and the book synopsis click here. It will take you to my new website, Stephen Bentley – Author].

What was Operation Julie?

Operation Julie was a UK police investigation into the production of LSD by two drug rings during the mid-1970’s. The operation, involving 11 police forces over a 2 ½-year period, resulted in the break-up of one of the largest LSD manufacturing operations in the world. It culminated in 1977 with enough LSD to make 6.5 million ‘tabs’ (with a street value of £6.5M) being seized, 120 people arrested in the UK and France and over £800,000 discovered in Swiss bank accounts.

In 1978, 15 defendants appeared at Bristol Crown Court. It took a month for the prosecution to deliver the incriminating evidence. Kemp pleaded guilty and received 13 years in jail, as did Todd. Fielding and Hughes were sentenced to 8 years. In total, the 15 defendants received a combined 120 years in jail.

As a result of the seizure it was estimated the price of LSD tabs rose from £1 to £5 each, and that Operation Julie had removed 90% of LSD from the British market. It is thought that LSD produced by the two labs had been exported to over 100 countries. In total, 1.1 million tabs and enough LSD crystal to make a further 6.5 million, were discovered and destroyed. The total street value of the LSD would have been £7.6 million.


Operation Julie has often been referred to as a police undercover operation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A lot of the investigation was good old-fashioned routine detective work.

Again much of it involved surveillance of targets and suspects including methods that to this day I am forbidden to write about owing to the Official Secrets Act.

I am permitted to divulge that members of the team tracking or tailing the suspects’ vehicles carried out much of the surveillance work; even posing as innocent holidaymakers and on one occasion as surveyors.

None of this is true undercover work.

When you go undercover you assume a complete new identity. You mix with and hope to infiltrate the ‘bad guys’.

It is a stressful and demanding role.

There were only four true undercover officers who worked on Operation Julie.

I was one of them.

What follows is a true story. It does not pretend to be the whole story of Operation Julie as that is well documented elsewhere. It is a personal narrative where I hope to show you a glimpse into undercover police work. I will do what I never allowed during this time – I will let you into my head.


As far as I am aware this is the seventh book that deals with Operation Julie, either as a whole or using it as part of that book’s story.

There have only been three books that were “written” by police insiders to the investigation. This book is the only one to have been written by an insider from start to finish, by actually pounding the keyboard and using my own words and feelings.

First there was Operation Julie  by Colin Pratt and Dick Lee. Dick Lee was the man in charge of the Operation Julie Squad. It was his brainchild and he saw it through until the end even though part way through the investigation he was replaced as our boss by Detective Superintendent Greenslade. That appointment was politically motivated. Lee had ruffled too many establishment feathers and figures. Greenslade was a puppet nearing retirement. He was a ‘yes man’ and a conventional policeman. Colin Pratt was a journalist on the Daily Express at the time of Operation Julie. This first book was ghost written by Pratt. It is a decent book, well told and well written. Unfortunately, it contained unnecessary and inaccurate comments about terrorist groups and individuals wrongly claimed to have been associated with these groups. It is,  however, other than the issue I have mentioned, an accurate tale of the investigation. I have to say that as it describes me as a “Lancastrian and an intelligent and talented detective”. That is not sarcasm. It is my attempt at humour!

‘Busted: The Sensational Life-Story of an Undercover Hippie Cop’ by Ed Laxton and Martin Pritchard published in 1978 was next in line. Martin was a successful and experienced undercover officer with the Thames Valley Police Drug Squad before continuing in the same role on Operation Julie. Laxton was a journalist with the Daily Mirror and the book was ghost written by him. It is a lurid tale of undercover work spoiled by doubtful stories and riddled with ‘head’ and criminal underworld parlance. It has the word ‘sensational’ in the title and that is the clue to the style and content. It is not recommended reading. Both of those books were rushed efforts to unashamedly attempt to cash in on the extensive news coverage following the busts and sentencing of the Operation Julie conspirators.

The next and third in line that is directly connected to Operation Julie is ‘Operation Julie: The World’s Greatest LSD Bust’ by Lyn Ebenezer. I have nothing to add about this book that I haven’t already said in my Amazon review of the  book.

The next two books are more to do with the historical background of LSD as a culture in its own right. They both make interesting reading for anyone interested in the history of LSD, its culture and iconic figures, and a ‘trip’ down memory lane back to the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, the Merry Pranksters, Ken Kesey and ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and even further back. They are  ‘The Brotherhood of Eternal Love’ by Stewart Tendler and David May and ‘Albion Dreaming: A popular history of LSD in Britain’ by Andy Roberts.

Finally, a book called ‘To Live Outside the Law: Caught by Operation Julie, Britain’s Biggest Drugs Bust’ by Leaf Fielding is written by an “insider” of another kind. Fielding ended up inside behind bars after pleading guilty to being part of the LSD distribution chain. It is a well-written book but, for me, it is padded out with tales of his wretched childhood and other matters that are not evenly remotely connected to Operation Julie.

There are other countless sources of information about Operation Julie on the internet. Many of them are of dubious provenance and serve to attack the ‘establishment’ in a defence of the LSD counter-culture. The fact is that LSD was at the time of Operation Julie a Class A substance proscribed under the Misuse of Drugs Act. It still is. If there was any weight in their arguments about LSD, then why is there no lobbying movement to try and influence legislators to legalise it? There was certainly a debate  and still is, about cannabis and a movement that was widely known as the “Legalise Cannabis” organisation.

The conspirators in the Operation Julie saga were all aware of the risks they took in manufacturing and distributing a Class A drug. One of the protagonists in my story that follows, Smiles, summed that up so succinctly to me. I wanted to meet him following the arrests and I did so in a police cell at Swindon Police Station. He was kind enough to say to me,

“No hard feelings. It’s all part of the game.”

The advocates of the use of LSD are in the main articulate and intelligent people. However, may I remind them of what Huxley himself said about the use of LSD, and quoted in the Tendler & May book –

From the very beginning there had been an edge in the drug experiences bordering, frighteningly, on insanity. Huxley’s second wife, Laura, herself an LSD psychotherapist, later wrote: ‘Always Aldous emphasizes how delicately and respectfully these chemicals should be used.’ LSD should only be taken with a doctor’s consent and then when the subject was peaceful, in good health, friendly surroundings and wise company.

Some of the main players in the conspiracy were of the view that they were entitled to ‘spread the word’ about LSD in a similar vein to Timothy Leary and others involved in the earliest days of the LSD counter-culture. If they were as intelligent as many make out, including me, then it is astounding that they engaged in both self-deception and hypocrisy on a grand scale. Smiles knew he was a dealer. He lived by his wits and was in it to make money – nothing more and nothing less. He was honest to himself. The pseudo-altruistic messages pouring forth from the likes of Kemp and Bott were poppycock.

They were in it for the money too. They were not sufficiently honest enough with themselves to admit it. Okay, they lived the simple life in the Welsh cottage with the goats and the vegetable patch. But how many ‘good-lifers’ like them also had Swiss bank accounts? Furthermore, if the account by Tendler & May is correct, then why did Kemp become so concerned with money in his early days in France working as the chemist for Solomon?

The fact is that the original LSD culture was centred around the US ‘beat generation’ of the 1950’s and early 1960’s. It was the preserve of artists, authors and academia. Eventually even the early ‘evangelists’ of LSD, treating it as a kind of sacred object, succumbed to the temptation to make easy money. The Brotherhood of Eternal Love (the organisation not the book) is a story heavily featuring the criminal Hell’s Angels gangs of California. Operation Julie and the massive drugs ring it smashed, was a legacy of those days.

All of the proselytizing falling from the mouths of the advocates of LSD also conveniently forgets another factor. Poly-drug use is common place. Most street dealers and users of drugs sell or use more than just one single type of drug. This opens up opportunities for the drug user who is new to the scene of being attracted to the prospect of trying and experimenting with new drugs. Smiles had access to LSD, cocaine, marijuana and hash. In my experience, both as a former undercover officer, drugs squad detective and criminal defence barrister, that is common.

I appreciate that the following tales are apocryphal, but they are true. A former neighbour of mine told me many years ago that he still suffered unpleasant flashbacks years after he ceased to use LSD. Turning to the topic of cannabis, a close friend told me that he had stopped using cannabis on a regular basis. Why? He had reached a stage when he was forgetting important things to do and important appointments in his work diary.

The responsible advice to anyone who wishes to trip on acid is to have a ‘sitter’ and ensure you are in a peaceful and comfortable state of mind. Unfortunately, it is not everyone who follows that advice. It isn’t like your acid tab comes with a health warning and usage instructions in a container like you get from a pharmacy with a prescribed or over-the-counter drug.

The effects of any hallucinogenic drug, including cannabis, can be unpredictable. Surely, that is good enough reason for the likes of LSD and cannabis to be outlawed? [If you hold the opinion that cannabis is not a hallucinogenic, then think again! And read all of my book] You can Google your own sources  if you so wish, to find out more about ‘bad acid trips’. Here is one I found after a cursory search – 5 Bad Acid Trip Stories

I don’t believe I am a hypocrite. I used drugs during my undercover days and since then on a number of occasions. I haven’t used any for years now. I am open minded about certain drugs. I neither advocate their use or condemn anyone that does use them. I recognised the dangers of drug use in my own life and what I now object to are the one-sided arguments used in the debate about drugs.

In case you were wondering, and it isn’t a spoiler –  no, I never did trip on acid. It was never a problem to refuse to use acid. Acidheads, and the ‘head world’ in general, know it’s not for everyone. Even, if it ‘is for you’ then there is a universal acceptance in the drug world that you have to be ‘in the moment’ to contemplate dropping even one single tab.
The book has come a long way since that early draft. You may now read the first three chapters for FREE!