A COCAINE dealer has been jailed for two years after police stumbled across his stash when they were searching for him on an unrelated matter.

Matthew Willshaw had stashed cash in a laundry basket while drugs were recovered from around his home.

Jenny Haigh, prosecuting, said the 26-year-old was also caught with £2,620 in cash, cannabis for his own personal use and pepper spray.

"He was clearly making some money from it but predominantly because he said he 'has a large habit'," she said.

"He was arrested in of a different matter, as a result they attended his home and whilst they were there looking for him they carried out a search of the address and found various amounts of cannabis but also £2,620 hidden in a laundry basket, there were scales, cocaine, grip seal bags, and pepper spray."

Police valued the cocaine at £580 and Willshaw's mobile phone was searched where various text showed he was involved in street level drug dealing.

The Northern Echo: Matthew WillshawMatthew Willshaw

Miss Haigh requested that the drugs and pepper spray were confiscated and destroyed.

Willshaw, of Edge Hill Way, Billingham, pleaded guilty to possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply, possession of a Class B drug and possession of a weapon for the discharge of a noxious liquid – pepper spray.

Michele Turner, in mitigation, said her client had pleaded guilty following negotiations with the Crown Prosecution Service and accepted he had been dealing for some time.

"It is also right to say that is is a man who is a small dealer," she said. "He supplies the drug as and when it is available."

Miss Turner told the court that Willshaw had recently become a father and after initially struggling with the responsibility he was now working to build a relationship with his child.

She added: "This isn't somebody deals on a huge or massive scale."

Judge Howard Crowson sentenced Willshaw to two years in custody telling the defendant 'people who deal to fund their own habit rarely save money, in fact they don't ever save money, they are usually in debt'.

"Yours is the level of street dealer in a significant role because you were making money out of it, some of which you were able to save but motivated to some degree by the fact you were a cocaine user yourself – those two points overlap," he added.

"I have in reports about changes in your life, particular responsibilities that might have frightened you but you are now wishing to embrace."

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