A YOUNG cannabis dealer drew police attention to himself as he drove a BMW car at suspected excessive speed on a town road, a court was told.

Anthony William Fitzgerald, 24, was at the wheel of the car pulled over by police on Cumby Road, Newton Aycliffe, on April 4, last year.

Durham Crown Court heard a search of the vehicle led to the recovery of £320 in cash, a clutch bag containing 5.429g of cocaine, with a street sale value of £240, a set of mini scales and a large quantity of empty clutch bags, as used in drug dealing, plus a mobile phone.

Chris Baker, prosecuting, said a partly smoked cannabis joint was recovered from Fitzgerald’s underwear, while examination of the phone revealed messages indicative of drug dealing, with offers to supply cannabis.

When interviewed, Fitzgerald admitted supplying cocaine for profit as he had a drug habit and resorted to drug supply to help pay for his own habit.

Mr Baker said further examination of the phone revealed messages relating to cannabis supply, between January and April, last year.

He was offering cannabis in ‘quarters’ and ‘eighths’ deals to potential buyers.

The court heard the defendant has only two previous offences, both for driving with drugs above the specified limit in his system, one on the day he was stopped by police.

Mr Baker said while there would be no prosecution application for confiscation proceedings in this case.

The defendant, of Elmfield Place, Newton Aycliffe, admitted possessing a class A drug with intent to supply, offering to supply and possession of cannabis, and possessing criminal property, the £320 found in the car.

Mr Baker said the most serious charge, involving the intention to supply cocaine, could attract a sentence of up to seven years, with a starting point, after trial, of four-and-a-half years.

Shaun Dryden, mitigating, said the defendant is only lightly convicted, has always been in employment, in a supermarket warehouse, since he was 18 and comes from a respectable family.

Presenting character testimonials from members of the defendant’s family, Mr Dryden said: “He finds himself in court for the first time for such serious offences.

“He admitted the offences when interviewed and at the earliest stage in court proceedings.

“On the face of it, it was low level street dealing, but it involved a category A drug.

“There’s a measure of naivety as far as he’s concerned and my impression is that he did not realise the full significance of what he was doing, having little experience of the criminal justice system, per se.”

Judge James Adkin agreed it was, “completely out of character” for Fitzgerald to get caught up in such offending and therefore reduced the sentence compared to the guidelines, with a one-third deduction for his admissions.

It left Fitzgerald starting a prison sentence of two years and two months.