A MAN who was seen carrying a knife near a school site, close to leaving time on an afternoon, has been given an ultimatum by a judge.

Concern mounted when a report was received of a man apparently brandishing some form of bladed implement near tennis courts at Consett Academy, on Friday June 28.

A photo of the suspected knife carrier was circulated on social media and, having been recognised, it led to the arrest of Lee William Charlton at his nearby home in Consett, a short time later.

Appearing before County Durham magistrates three days later, the 41-year-old defendant, of Beverley Terrace, admitted possessing a knife, blade or sharp pointed article in a public place and the case was sent to Durham Crown Court.

At a previous hearing at the court, Charlton’s counsel Jessica Heggie, said he accepted having a knife inside a coat pocket.

But she said it was more of a utility-type knife.

Judge Jonathan Carroll said regardless of what kind of bladed implement a custodial sentence of some form would follow for having any form of knife near a school.

Charlton was bailed to allow preparation of background reports on him, prior to sentence, with a condition that he does not go within 50 metres of the academy.

On his return to court, Judge Carroll told Ms Heggie: “Evidently this crosses the custody threshold and, at the forefront of my mind is a custodial sentence.”

But the judge said he has received a letter from an agency which helps drug users overcome their addictions, known as The Recovery Academy.

He said the letter outlined that the defendant has been on a course of methadone treatment to curb his heroin addiction and is sticking to the arranged ‘script’.

Judge Carroll said on that basis he was prepared to defer sentence to see if he maintains his progress addressing his drug issues.

The judge told Ms Heggie: “The outcome is entirely down to him to show he has successfully completed the entirety of The Recovery Academy programme.

“He still remains at risk of a custodial sentence, but I’ll be more minded to pass a suspended sentence if he has been complying by the completion of the deferment.”

Judge Carroll asked for an up-dated report by the Probation Service as well as details from the academy as to Charlton’s compliance with the programme and if it is satisfied with his progress to drug recovery.

“Anything other than success will result in an immediate custodial sentence.

“Success will merely earn a suspended sentence. It’s now down to him.

“If he wants to make the best of this opportunity he has to make it a success.”

Sentence was deferred until Friday, December 20 and Charlton was bailed to live at his home address.