A 60-year-old Salvation Army volunteer has been spared jail for holding a stash of crack cocaine for a dealer in return for free rocks of the drug for his own addiction.
Burnley Crown Court was told how John Allum walked into Nelson Police Station of his own accord with 20 wraps of the drug - worth £400 on the streets - and confessed to his involvement in someone else's commercial enterprise. He was scared and sweating profusely, said he had used more drugs than he had been allowed to, owed money and feared he might be harmed as he couldn't pay it.
Allum, who is said to no longer be taking drugs and who now works in the Salvation Army shop in Accrington, walked free after a judge described the circumstances of the case as "very unusual". Recorder Anthony McLoughlin said it almost beggared belief Allum had been taking crack cocaine at his age and getting it given as "payment in kind" for protecting others from the risk of custody.
The defendant, of Dover Street, Nelson, admitted possessing crack cocaine with intent to supply, last November 11th and had been committed for sentence by Burnley magistrates.
He was given 16 months in jail, suspended for two years, with supervision and 120 hours unpaid work.
Prosecutor Stephen Parker said at 11am, the defendant presented himself at the police station and said he had something to say.
A sergeant spoke to him. Mr Parker continued: "They went into a side room. The sergeant describes the defendant as being agitated, sweating profusely and seeming very scared and nervous.
"The defendant said he had become scared of a local drug dealer he owed money to and couldn't afford to pay. He said he had been threatened and felt he would be harmed by these people and came to the police station to ask for some help."
"He went on to tell the officer he had been dealing cocaine for a drug dealer, who in return had allowed the defendant to use some of the crack cocaine for himself. He had used too much and he now owed them money he couldn't afford to repay. The officer describes how he became quite emotional and said the defendant had got himself in a position he couldn't see any way out of which is why he presented himself at the police station."
Mr Parker said Allum was asked if he had any drugs on him and produced a yellow plastic container which had 20 wraps of crack cocaine - 3.15 grams of £20 street deals - worth £400, in it. He was arrested and formally interviewed.
The prosecutor told the hearing Allum said the cocaine was not actually his and he was working as a runner for another person. He said that in return for that "employment" he was allowed two to three rocks a week. Mr Parker went on: "He said his involvement wasn't actually dealing, it was holding the drugs for the dealer. He would then receive a phone call, he would be met and he would then hand over the drugs he had been holding for that dealer."
The defendant told police it was the second batch of drugs he had held in the last four to six weeks. He said he had been given the container with 43 rocks of cocaine in it. He gave a dealer 12, used 11 himself and had taken the remaining 20 into the police station.
The hearing was told Allum had 23 offences on his record between 1973 and 2001 and had served 18 months behind bars for arson.
Nick Dearing (defending) said the defendant, who had no relevant previous convictions, had been the author of his own misfortune.
He had found himself spiralling deeper into a situation and took positive steps to end it. The solicitor continued: "He handed himself in in the full knowledge he may well receive a custodial sentence."
Mr Dearing said the defendant's pre-sentence report had stated he was nonchalant about going to custody. The solicitor went on: "He is fatalistic and realistic. He has no desire to go to custody, but he does recognise that is a strong likelihood in the circumstances." Allum showed remorse.
Sentencing, Recorder Anthony McLoughlin said the defendant would have had absolutely no cause for complaint if he had received a long prison sentence. He said Allum had been a "safe port" for the drugs and had known what he was about.
The judge told him: "You were clearly consuming more drugs than you were actually being allowed to in this criminal enterprise and it almost beggars belief that the trade you are involved in means somebody of your age is taking drugs and holding it for others and that's your payment in kind for protecting others from the risk of custodial sentences."