THE moving life story of a homeless Carlisle man was aired in a court after he was arrested for having an illicit drug.

Philip Woodhead, 37, admitted having the class B drug amphetamine.

Prosecutor Malcolm Isherwood told Carlisle's Rickergate Magistrates' Court the small amount of the drug found on the defendant was consistent with it being for personal use only.

Woodhead's defence lawyer Mark Shepherd told District Judge Gerald Chalk that he should draw back from punishing him.

"He has been on the streets for the last 12 years before recently obtaining accommodation," explained the lawyer as he began outlining Woodhouse's background.

"That has been a real shock for him because it was a day that he thought would never come, given his story."

Mr Shepherd described how Woodhead - the child of a violent father - had spent seven years in care. In the 20 years after his 17th birthday, his life was one dominated by homelessness.

He had also served a number of substantial prison sentences.

Mr Shepherd said:"In 2008, he was effectively removed from the Riverside Housing [Association] housing list... because of a particular offence.

"You can probably imagine what he had had to do to survive in that time on the streets of Carlisle.

"He had tents incinerated; tents slashed; his identity documents were stolen from him as well.

"It was a very, very difficult existence."

Mr Shepherd said Woodhead also suffered from anxiety and depression - but he had recently met a man who was involved in a local project which aims to set up a night shelter for homeless people in Carlisle.

"He sees Mr Woodhead as his eyes and ears for what takes place on the streets of Carlisle with the homeless as we approach the winter," continued Mr Shepherd.

'Mr Woodhead knows better than anyone else and sadly he has had a number of friends and aquaintances who lost their lives during the cold winter months over the years."

The lawyer said the Carlisle homeless persons' shelter project had started in January this year and it now looked likely to win funding of £20,000 to 325,000.

"We can only imagine the good that it would do for people who are destitute," said Mr Shepherd.

An intelligent man, Woodhead had been unable to get identity documents but with support he had been able to step away from serious crime.

He had the amphetamine last August because of his situation but this had been a misjudgement. He now, however, had support.

Fundraising had recently raised nearly 100 to pay for his bus travel between Carlisle and Brampton.

District Judge Gerald Chalk said he recognised that the defendant's situation had recently changed, noting that he was fortunate to have that support from so many people.

"I will join in giving that support," said the judge, ruling that Woodhouse should have benefit of a 12-month conditional discharge.

That means he will no be punished if he refrains from reoffending in that period.

The defendant must pay prosecution costs of £85 and a £21 victim surcharge.