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Friday, 25 April 2014

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Carlisle drug dealer spared jail after praise from police

A drug dealer has been spared a prison sentence – thanks to an unexpected character reference from the police officers who arrested him.

Stephen Dowthwaite, 31, was facing an almost inevitable prison sentence after being caught in January with nearly £5,000 of cannabis, an illegal class B drug.

But shortly before he was due to be sentenced at Carlisle Crown Court the police took the unusual step of contacting the Crown Prosecution Service to say they had noticed how, since his arrest nine months ago, he had turned his life around, given up drugs and was making huge efforts to keep out of trouble.

Even Judge Paul Batty QC, the city’s Honorary Recorder, admitted that Dowthwaite would have gone straight to jail after pleading guilty to possessing the cannabis with intent to supply it but for the “exceptional” intervention by the police.

Instead he suspended the 12-month prison sentence for two years and ordered him to do 150 hours unpaid community work. He told Dowthwaite he owed the police an enormous debt of gratitude.

Dowthwaite, who was working as a “cleaning operative” at the Cumberland Infirmary at the time of his arrest, pleaded guilty to possessing the cannabis with intent to supply it, and possessing a smaller quantity for personal use.

His barrister Erimnaz Mushtaq said he had become a heavy user of cannabis after his baby son was stillborn soon after the death of his grandmother.

“It put him in a situation he was unable to cope with,” she said. “He was unable to channel his grief into any proper way, and rather than talking about it and seeking help he immersed himself into drug use.”

Ms Mushtaq said that immediately after his arrest Dowthwaite, of Currock Park Avenue, Currock, had voluntarily enrolled on a drug treatment programme, largely because he knew his partner would not stand by him if he did not give up drugs.

He lost his hospital job because of the case, but was now doing well as a cleaner at a local hotel, she said.

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