A young man who was caught with more than £900 worth of crack cocaine in a Kinder egg has escaped being jailed after a judge heard of the voluntary work he does with a mentoring project.
Joseph Shallcross was told by the judge at Warwick Crown Court he should have been facing a 30-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to possessing the drug with intent to supply it.
Instead Shallcross, 20, of Pennington Mews, Rugby, was given a two-year community order with a rehabilitation requirement and a condition of taking part in a Thinking Skills programme.
Prosecutor Ben Gow said that in April the police went to Shallcross’s flat with a search warrant and found him on the sofa in the living room.
When officers restrained him and said they were going to search the premises, he insisted: “I ain’t done nothing wrong. You ain’t here for me.”
But as he struggled he kept trying to get his hand into the pocket of his trousers – where the police found a Kinder egg.
In it were two packages containing a total of 46 £20 wraps of crack cocaine.
When he was interviewed about the drugs, Shallcross, who had previous convictions for burglary, theft and causing damage, replied ‘no comment’ to all questions.
But a phone seized by the police contained messages which indicated he was involved in the supply of drugs, and Mr Gow said: “The prosecution case is that he was a significant street dealer.”
David Everett, defending, said that although Shallcross, who had been in custody since his arrest, had a caution for possessing cannabis, he had no convictions for drug offences.
A qualified fork-lift driver, he has also been involved in a mentoring project at a Rugby community centre where he helps children with problems to express themselves through music and writing lyrics.
“He accepts there have been drink and drugs problems in his life, and he says he feels much better as a result of his forced rehabilitation while on remand,” said Mr Everett.
“He had been asked to sell drugs on behalf of another who then supplied him with the drugs to sell. It had been going on for a week or so.
“He says he had lots of drug debts, and was told there was a way out of it – he could have his head kicked in, or he could sell drugs. The profit, such as it was, was to reduce his drug debt.”
Sentencing Shallcross, Judge Sylvia de Bertodano told him: “Class A drugs ruin lives. It may be that at 20 you are too young to appreciate that; but I can assure you they do, and if you continue the way you’re going, you will find that out.
“You are still young. It is clear you have some insight into what has gone wrong in your life, and there is a lot more to you than just someone who sells drugs. It is time to recognise that and do something about it.
“I have read your letter. What you ask for is for me to give you a chance – and I am going to do so.
“You have been in prison now for a couple of months, and you have probably had some time to do some thinking.
“I have a guideline, and the starting point is four-and-a-half years. Given your youth, I would make a starting point of 42 months and give you credit for your plea.
“That would bring it down to 30 months, which is a period I can’t suspend, so I’m going to make a deal with you.
“I’m going to make a community order for two years. You need to use that time to get yourself back on track, and if you can do all that for two years you will not have to spend any more time in prison.
“But if you can’t, and you are brought back because you have not complied with the order or you have committed any other offences, you will come back before me – and you will serve that 30 months.
“That is the deal. I really, really hope for your sake that you keep your side of it.”