A DRUG dealer caught ‘red-handed’ selling cannabis at a family festival has been spared jail by the narrowest of margins said a Worcester judge.
Paul Cousins was dealing the class B drug at Nozstock in Herefordshire before he was caught ‘red-handed’ by security with cannabis, cocaine and cash and handed over to police.
The 31-year-old of Rowberry Street, Bromyard appeared at Worcester Crown Court on Wednesday after he admitted possession of cannabis with intent to supply and possession of cocaine at the festival on July 19, 2019.
Cousins had no previous convictions when he was caught with 13 deals of cannabis which he would have sold for £10 each having already made around 60 deals already.
He was found with £607 in cash made from those deals, sealed bags of cannabis, scales and a grinder after a search was made of his tent.
Security staff handed the defendant over to police. Analysis of his phone also showed evidence of drug dealing. More cash was later seized in connection with the defendant’s dealing making £747 in total.
Mark Thompson, defending, said Cousins had admitted he was dealing when he spoke to security staff and police at the festival.
The barrister added: “This delay is shameful for a case that, on the face of it, should have been dealt with over one year ago.”
Mr Thompson, who accepted the custody threshold was crossed, told the judge that his client was ‘terrified of the prospect of going to prison’ and was a carer for his mum.
Judge Nicolas Cartwright said the starting point for the offence was 12 months in prison, arguing that an aggravating feature of the case was that the dealing took place at a family festival.
“You don’t have any previous convictions but you certainly started your involvement in criminal activity at a high level,” the judge said.
He told Cousins: “Dealing drugs at a festival is really serious even if it’s cannabis rather than class A drugs.”
The judge added that cannabis may be viewed by the defendant as a ‘harmless recreational drug’ but that there were many psychiatrists and mental health professionals who treat defendant appearing before these courts with mental health issues brought about by the use of the drug. He also said cannabis was a gateway to the use of more serious drugs.
Judge Cartwright said the phone seized by police showed that the dealing was not an isolated incident. However, he reduced the length of the custodial element of the sentence by a third to reflect the defendant’s guilty plea at the earliest opportunity before magistrates.
He told Cousins he did represent a risk or danger to the public. He argued there was no strong personal mitigation but there would be a significant harmful impact upon others were Cousins sent to jail because he was a carer for his mother. He said there was some mitigation in the delay, ‘getting on for a year and three quarters since the date you were caught red-handed’.
The judge also had to consider the impact of the coronavirus restrictions in prison which, though he hoped they would be eased in the near future, involved inmates being confined to their cells for 23 hours a day with no access to the gym, educational facilities and restrictions on socialising with other prisoners which made an immediate custodial sentence ‘more isolating’ than it would otherwise be.
Judge Cartwright sentenced him to eight months in prison suspended for two years in what he said was ‘an incredibly finely balanced’ decision. He ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the drugs and other paraphernalia. He also ordered Cousins to complete 280 hours of unpaid work over the next two years