Sun, 21 Feb 2021
A DRUG dealer has narrowly avoided being sent straight to prison.
Judge Kirsty Real told the 20-year-old – who was still a teenager at the time of his arrest – she had planned to send him into custody for selling cocaine and cannabis to feed his own habit.
In the dock for a sentencing hearing at Reading Crown Court on Wednesday, February 10, was Lewis McGuinness, of Amberley Close, Newbury.
Shona Probert, prosecuting, said McGuinness was stopped as he drove a BMW 1 series car in Thatcham.
Police were suspicious because of the manner of his driving and the fact that the vehicle had a defective headlamp.
When asked for his insurance details, the court heard, McGuinness began scrolling through his mobile phone – but accidentally hit the ‘notebook’ function.
A sharp-eyed police officer spotted a list of names with figures beside them and recognised it as a ‘tick list’ – a memo showing which customers owed drugs money.
Cocaine and multiple ‘deal’ bags were subsequently found on him, said Ms Probert, and all the while his phone received messages from prospective customers, whose details the police recorded.
McGuinness admitted being concerned in the supply of the class B-controlled drug cannabis in Thatcham between Wednesday, April 1, and Thursday, October 15.
He further admitted being involved in the making of an offer to supply the class A-controlled drug cocaine to another in Thatcham between the same dates.
He has no convictions, but had previously been cautioned for offences involving both class A- and class B-controlled drugs.
Sarah McIntyre, defending, said her client had been coerced and intimidated by others into dealing drugs, and at the time had a habit of his own to feed.
She added: “His family was threatened and he himself was beaten up.”
She referred the judge to references written on McGuinness’ behalf, including one by his employer, Martin Bell, and urged her to “take this opportunity to divert him away from the criminal justice system” by suspending the inevitable prison sentence that would be imposed.
After reading a pre-sentence report Judge Real told McGuinness: “These are really serious offences.
“I first thought it would have to be immediate custody.”
She said she was nevertheless able to suspend the sentence “because the financial gain was to fund your own habit”.
Other factors in the suspension included the length of time it had taken to bring the matter to court, current prison conditions during the coronavirus pandemic, the remorse expressed in a letter McGuinness had written to the judge and the support of his family and employer.
McGuinness – who had brought an overnight bag in anticipation of immediate custody – was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for 18 months.
In addition, he was ordered to complete up to 25 days of rehabilitation activity.
Finally, McGuinness was ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work for the community.