Published: 17:05, 05 December 2018
| Updated: 17:07, 05 December 2018
A teenager faced a minimum seven-year youth custody sentence for Class A drug dealing, having committed two similar previous offences.
But a judge said he was persuaded it would be unjust in the "county lines" case and instead passed a sentence of three years and eight months on Ryley White-Francis.
Judge David Griffith-Jones said he reached that conclusion on the 18-year-old, who was convicted of dealing Class A drugs at the ages of 15 and 16, because of his age and problems he had been unable to cope with.
Maidstone Crown Court heard police on September 20 this year saw a hire car in The Brook, Chatham, which was an area “well known” for drug dealing.
White-Francis was in the back seat and another youth and a woman were also in the car. All were from London.
Prosecutor John Fitzgerald said when the car was stopped all three were extremely nervous.
A phone was constantly ringing. Messages indicated drugs supply.
Twenty wraps of cocaine and heroin were seized from the woman’s underwear.
White-Francis was strip searched and a package could be seen protruding from his buttocks.
“He refused to release it,” said Mr Fitzgerald.
“He made it clear he would be difficult about it. He said he would wait it out and wouldn’t go to the loo.”
He was taken to hospital but staff would not X-ray him because he had not swallowed anything.
“He couldn’t hold it any longer and the package was ejected,” said Mr Fitzgerald.
“It contained 39 grams of crack cocaine.”
White-Francis, of Masbro Road, West Kensington, West London, admitted possessing drugs with intent to supply and being concerned in the supply of drugs.
Mr Fitzgerald said the teenager qualified for a minimum seven-year sentence unless it would be unjust.
“This is no novice in the world of drugs supply,” he added.
“He was acting as a runner. The man running the show sends them down from London with a hire car and a phone.
"It is county lines.”
His two previous convictions were for possessing heroin and crack cocaine with intent to supply.
Genevieve Reed, defending, said White-Francis’ girlfriend was pregnant and due to give birth in March.
“Given his age and mitigation, it would be unjust to impose the mandatory sentence,” she submitted.
“He had been in care prior to the first offence.
“He has tried very much to turn thing around and take advantage of the help given to him.
"When he was young his father went to prison for eight years for drug activity.”
Miss Reed said White-Francis ended up in a hostel “full of drug users”.
He found himself in a desperate situation and tried to go back to boxing, which he was good at.
"I hope you mean it when you say you are determined to lead a more sensible life in future" - Judge David Griffith-Jones
“These people are put together by those further up the chain,” said Miss Reed.
“He was to be paid £50 for his part.”
Judge Griffith-Jones said White-Francis appeared to have an entrenched approach to things and had not responded to support he was offered.
He told the teenager: “This is a sorry tale. You are to be sentenced for serious offences.
"The case takes on an even more serious aspect when one looks at your convictions.
“I must impose a custodial term for at least seven years unless I am of the opinion there are particular circumstances relating to any of the offences or to you that would make it unjust to do so.
“I have thought long and hard about that. I can tell you after careful consideration I am persuaded it would be unjust.
"I have reached that conclusion because of your age.
“The two offences are, of course, very serious and a sentence of some length is demanded.
"Here, there is significant aggravation in your previous offending.
“While they occurred when you were young, you failed to learn your lesson and went on to commit these offences soon after your 18th birthday.
“You maintain you now have a different perspective. It is important to impose the shortest term of imprisonment I feel I properly can in the circumstances.”
The judge added: “I hope you mean it when you say you are determined to lead a more sensible life in future.
"I hope you will approach this sentence constructively. I wish you well."
Speaking after sentencing, investigating officer Det Con Phil Pead, from Kent Police, said: "White-Francis came into Medway with the sole intention of dealing drugs.
"He attempted to hide them internally however these were recovered by officers and he was charged with the offences.
"We work hard to remove drug dealers from Medway and Kent and I hope this sentencing serves as a reminder to others who may be involved in this criminal activity."