A convicted cocaine dealer has avoided prison time after a judge said being behind bars would expose him to ‘streetwise’ criminals.
Simon Beveridge kept his freedom after a court heard a “breathtakingly frank” testimony from him.
The judge wondered whether it was in the public interest to put him in prison for his first offences, reports the Gazette.
He said the “naive” defendant would attract attention from criminals who were “vastly convicted and streetwise to the nth degree” if he was jailed.
“I ask myself, do the people of Teesside benefit by exposing him to that?” said Recorder David Myerson QC. “I have answered that question firmly in the negative.”
The judge had called Beveridge into the witness-box, saying: “I want him to come and talk to me. I want to hear it from him.”
He asked the defendant: “Why did you agree to supply cocaine?”
Beveridge, 27, replied: “I had no choice. I got in a bit of debt. They were asking for the money back.
“I never had it. I missed a few payments. They give me a phone and white powder and said ‘that’ll clear your debt off’.”
He said he did not ask family to borrow money because they were going through a bad time, and he had friends who used Class A drugs.
Beveridge, of Queens Avenue, Thornaby, admitted possessing cocaine with intent to supply and possessing cannabis.
Prosecutor Emma Atkinson said he was on edge and physically shaking when police came to search his home on September 10 last year.
Asked if there were any drugs, he went to a black jacket and produced a package of 7.7g of cocaine in 15 bags, worth £310.
He also had £208 cash, phones carrying drug-related texts, scales, a “tick list” and a small amount of cannabis.
Andrew White, defending, said: “He’s extremely remorseful and through me he expresses his apologies and regret for this.
“He’s a long-term user of cannabis. He’s got himself well out of his depth here.
“He’s clearly never been to custody before. He’s a vulnerable young man. I can tell you he’s absolutely terrified at the thought of going to custody.”
The judge said the sentence was in the interests of Beveridge and “much, much more importantly” the community.
“In the normal course there is no doubt that people who sell Class A drugs go to prison,” added Recorder Myerson.
“Drugs are a scourge. They are corrupting, they are addictive and people who prey on the weaknesses of others should expect immediate custodial sentences.
“Of course his debt problems are entirely his own fault, nonetheless it seems to me there was a degree of pressure there.
“I’m satisfied he told me the truth. That was, in my judgment, breathtakingly frank.”
He said Beveridge was “a short-lived cocaine seller” whose crime was isolated, and proposed probation help had “reasonable prospects of success”.
Beveridge was given a two-year jail term, suspended for two years, with supervision and 120 hours’ unpaid work.