MAGISTRATES have issued a stern warning about the destructive dangers of drugs while challenging a defendant to "man up".

Stephen James Stoddart told magistrates in Newton Aycliffe that he is only an occasional user of cannabis after he admitted possession of the Class B drug.

But the bench said occasional drug use can lead to a life of misery and it was time the 22-year-old from Darlington stopped playing at life.

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Prosecutor Ann Darwin said police stopped a VW Golf in Darlington on March 23 after seeing Stoddart, a passenger in the vehicle, acting suspiciously.

Ms Darwin said he had cannabis hidden in his sock and the car’s glove box.

Rory Todd, in mitigation, said Stoddart, who has seasonal work as a grouse beater, only uses the drugs occasionally.

Magistrates were told he was given a 12 month conditional discharge from a court in Northallerton on February 21 after being convicted of possessing Mcat, being drunk and disorderly and causing criminal damage.

Margaret Cunningham, chairman of the bench, gave Stoddart, of Throstlenest Avenue, a stern warning about his drug use.

She said: “We have seen this all before, you say it is not a habit and you are only an occasional user, but using it once a month is a habit and it leads to other things.

“You are 22 now thinking the drugs don’t affect you, but it is time to man up.

“Drugs do have an effect and lead to a life of misery.

“Obviously you know where to get these drugs from and you can afford to spend money on them, you will become a habitual user.”

Mrs Cunningham also criticised Stoddart’s attitude towards the court, especially taking note of his red t-shirt, shorts and trainers.

She said: “Even the way you are dressed today does not show the court much respect, you are treating your life as a joke, but life is not a joke.

“This is a wake up call for you, it’s time you stopped playing.

“You have the possibility of a good life, but you also have the possibility of not being able to walk down the stairs if you carry on taking drugs.”

Stoddart was fined £100 and ordered to pay £85 court costs and a £20 victim surcharge.

Mr Todd said his client has now stopped using drugs.