A DRUG user bought extra cocaine from his supplier to sell on to a circle of friends, not realising the seriousness of what he was doing, a court was told.

James Cameron Atcheson came to police attention as he sat in a parked van with a female companion in the car park at Riverside Park, Chester-le-Street, at 10.20pm on September 15, 2018.

Durham Crown Court heard Atcheson got out and approached the officer, telling him he had been smoking a cannabis joint, before handing him a small amount of cannabis bush.

Asked if there was any other drug present, he produced a small snap-type plastic bag containing white powder, and confirmed it was cocaine.

Chris Wood, prosecuting, said this aroused the suspicion of the officer, who searched the van and recovered £1,295 in notes.

Atcheson was arrested and searched, uncovering ten more bags of white powder from his trouser pocket.

The total weight of the recovered cocaine was 6.36g, of 69-per cent purity, with a street value of between £320 and £480.

Messages on his seized phone indicated he was dealing. One indebted customer was told to pay up, with Atcheson adding: “Do I have ‘mug’ written across my f***ing forehead?”

Dr Wood said Atcheson initially claimed the drugs were for his personal use, while the van belonged to his father, and he offered police the first name of his supplier.

He said he was a heating engineer and the money in the van was payment for a job.

Atcheson later said he said he shared drugs with friends.

But, at an earlier court hearing the now 22-year-old defendant, of Rowan Avenue, Washington, admitted possessing cocaine with intent to supply.

Susannah Proctor, mitigating, said Atcheson, of previous good character, had been “naïve”, buying extra cocaine and selling some to a circle of friends to help fund his own use, unaware of the severity of what he was doing.

Miss Proctor described Atcheson as a hard-working family man, who has kept out of trouble since his arrest and built up his business, “bitterly-regretting” his actions in 2018.

Passing a 28-month prison sentence, Judge James Adkin said the tone of some of the telephone messaging did not cast Atcheson as quite as naïve as was submitted.

He added that low-level suppliers such as the defendant only fuelled the more organised criminal activities of those further up the chain.