Herefordshire magician blames drug reading on over-the-counter medicine

AN ‘OCCASIONAL’ cocaine user blamed a drug reading on an over-the-counter medication bought to treat toothache.

James Alton entered a guilty plea when he appeared before magistrates in Hereford.

Police had spotted Alton driving a Hyundai on the A49 at Harewood End on February 2, prosecutor Elizabeth Blacklock said.

He was pulled over, admitted carrying a small amount of cocaine, and was arrested after failing a roadside drug test. An evidential test in custody revealed he had 428 microgrammes of cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine per litre of blood. The legal limit is 50.

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Chris Read, for Alton, said the 52-year-old had been travelling back after visiting an unwell family member.

“While he was away, he had been in great pain due to a broken tooth and an abscess. He went and bought an over-the-counter pain relief medication, and he has done his own research and found the medication does contain certain chemicals which give this result and are linked to cocaine, so they give this reading for benzoylecgonine.

“He first thought ‘well, it’s not cocaine,’ but I have told him that the offence is having the metabolite in his system.

“He does admit that he does occasionally use cocaine, but the result on this incident came from the medication he bought over the counter.

“He has an unusual lifestyle. He works in the entertainment industry as a magician and illusionist, but there has been little work over the last 12 months and so he is going to have to apply for benefits.

“The small amount of cocaine he had was just a couple of pounds worth left in a bag in the car.”

Alton, of Ethelstan Crescent, Hereford, was disqualified from driving for 12 months and fined £120. He must also pay costs of £185 and a £34 victim surcharge.

Hereford Times