Drug dealer Sean Hendrick has escaped going to prison... because he once served his country in the army.
The 27-year-old father was nabbed during a police raid at his home in The Grove, Deal last August.
Officers found more than 87g of skunk cannabis – with a street value of £900 - and £1,700 in cash on the floor.
But the ex-squaddie claimed all the cannabis was to feed his £60-a-day habit – and the cash was housing benefits, tax rebates and money belonging to his partner, which he planned to use to settle his rent arrears.
However, Hendrick, who now lives in Jubilee Road, Sandwich has admitted he had the cannabis to sell for commercial gain.
But Judge Simon James spared Hendrick a trip to jail after hearing he had served with the 2nd Prince Of Wales Regiment, completing two tours in Northern Ireland.
He told him: “If anybody still labours under the misapprehension that cannabis doesn’t ruin lives they only have to look at you.
“You have gone from a soldier serving your country to the dock in this court facing prison in just a few years. Yours has been a road paved with pain and anguish caused by your addiction to cannabis.”
Canterbury Crown Court heard that the labourer – who left the army five years ago – was still claiming that he only supplied cannabis to friends – even though police found numerous text requests on his mobile phone from people asking for drug deals.
The judge added: “I wasn’t born yesterday... it is perfectly obvious from the evidence that you were a dealer prepared to supply cannabis beyond the close group of friends and acquaintances.
"yours has been a road paved with pain and anguish caused by your addiction to cannabis" – judge simon james“You did this to earn a living and to sentence you on any other basis would fly in the face of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
"However I am prepared to accept that you are a heavy user and therefore much of your profit would have literally gone up in smoke.”
Hendrick’s lawyer Kerry Waitt said he had now reduced his drugs intake from £60 a day to £10 a day and was determined to stop.
The judge said the offence deserved a 12 month prison sentence but he was prepared to suspend it for 18 months – after ordering Hendrick to undertake a six-month course to tackle his drug problem.
He added: “You could have no genuine grievance if I were to send you into custody. But it seems to me that everybody is entitled to one last chance, particularly those who have served their country in the armed forces.
“However this is your absolutely last chance... make no mistake about it.”
He also ordered Hendricks to do 200 hours of unpaid work and pay £200 costs. The £1,745 seized by police will also be forfeited.
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