Published: 09:00, 25 July 2014
Drug dealer Tagan Heaton has kept his freedom - after being charged with the wrong offence.
As the 19-year-old left court with just a community order instead of a long jail sentence, a judge told him: "You are very lucky!"
Heaton, of Fenoulhet Way, Herne Bay, had been stopped by police driving a car in Park Road in February.
Canterbury Crown Court heard that not only was he a learner driver and had been drinking, but the officers could smell cannabis coming from his pockets.
Prosecutor Karl Volz said 10 bags of the illegal drug were then handed over – but it was discovered later that his mobile phone contained evidence he had been dealing "in considerable quantities".
But Heaton was only charged with possessing 14g of skunk cannabis intending to sell it - and not the more serious charge of supplying drugs on a commercial scale over a long period.
The prosecutor said Heaton's iPhone had contained between 130 to 140 messages, indicating was a "one-man" band who was dealing in the supplying of drugs to others.
"Messages which were readily associated with the supply of cannabis suggest that from January there had been a busy supply period of cannabis to numerous users," he said.
"There were also messages dating back until October last year indicating he had been involved in the supply of cannabis over a long period of time and supplying people sometimes on a daily basis."
Judge James O'Mahony asked: “Why didn't they charge him with the supply of cannabis over a period of time. There is clear evidence here of the supply over a significant period of time. It was a completely the wrong charge!"
The prosecutor replied: "It may well be said he is the beneficiary of some generosity because it is now too late for the prosecution to start mucking about with the charge."
Heaton admitted the drugs charge, driving over the drink-drive limit and not in accordance with his licence.
He was given a 24-month community order with a requirement to take a six-month course to tackle his drug addiction. He was also ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work and banned from driving for a year.
"You are very lucky that an inappropriate charge was brought, but there are also signs that you want to mend your ways," the judge added.
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