A SENIOR Carlisle judge has described an almost three-year delay in completing the prosecution of two drugs couriers as unacceptably “excessive.”

The two men – Paul Myers, 36, and Ben Cloney, 27 – were stopped by police as they drove along the city’s London Road on May 11 2017. Inside their car was “skunk” cannabis with a street value of just over £7,500.

Cloney admitted possessing the class B drug with intent to supply in August last year. Myers initially denied that offence, but changed his plea to guilty in December last year.

Despite the clear evidence against them, their prosecution was not finalised at Carlisle Crown Court until yesterday, prompting the stern criticism from Judge Peter Davies.

Prosecutor Marianne Alton said the men were spotted as Cloney drove a BMW along London Road at 9.30pm. Myers was his front-seat passenger. The pair had driven to Carlisle from Merseyside.

“Both men were acting nervously,” said Miss Alton, describing what happened after police stopped the car. A mobile phone in the car’s centre console was ringing constantly.

When officers searched the car they found a package containing 752g of skunk cannabis. After their arrest, Myers shouted to Cloney: “Say nothing mate.”

Explaining the delay in getting the case to court, Miss Alton said a man from Bristol had to be investigated after his fingerprints were found on the drugs package. The prosecutor accepted the defendants were couriers.

Judge Davies said: “Almost three years go by and the prosecution and the police failed to prosecute. At one point, someone thought it was not worth further action.” The delay was excessive, said the judge.

He added: “Generally I say that the police and prosecution do their job properly. But the public ought to know that their taxpayers’ money is being badly served when they handle cases like this, where illicit drugs are being brought into this county from outside, with a street value of £7,520.”

As a result he could not pass the immediate jail terms the defendants deserved. The judge also spoke of the danger posed to mental health by skunk cannabis. He said: “This is not cannabis for medicinal purposes. That is completely different.”

He said skunk had a high level of the psychoactive substance THC, which leaves users more likely to develop serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. “I’ve seen these people,” said the judge. “They’re in mental health institutions for years. It’s a horrible thing to see lives ruined.”

Both Cloney, of Sycamore Avenue, Wirral, and Myers, of Rockhouse Street, Liverpool, were given nine months jail, suspended for 18 months. Cloney must do 150 hours’ unpaid work, and Myers a three-month overnight curfew. Neither man has reoffended since being caught.