A TEENAGE cocaine-user began dealing the drug to work off a debt believing he had no choice.

A barrister representing Josh Lewis Conway at his court sentencing hearing said the 19-year-old’s case highlighted the potential pitfalls for those taking illegal substances.

Conway was exposed as a supplier in the early hours of July 14, 2019, when police saw his car travelling towards Whitehaven from Hensingham high street.

They stopped the vehicle, finding other males inside and a cannabis smell.

“They also noticed the defendant himself was acting in a particularly nervous way,” prosecutor Wayne Jackson told Carlisle Crown Court. “He volunteered to take a breathalyser test just so he could get home.

“They decided to search the car and while doing that one officer noticed the defendant’s behaviour was unusual.”

Snap-sealed bags containing white powder were found in Conway’s hands and in the driver’s footwell, with a further 21 stashed in a plastic box within a sports bag in the boot. The high-purity substance recovered was potentially worth up to £1,120.

A phone taken from Conway – who also failed a cocaine wipe test – revealed message exchanges and “clear evidence of trafficking”.

When interviewed, he described having a debt of almost £1,000 and buying drugs from his supplier to share between himself and friends.

Conway, of Hinnings Road, Distington, admitted possessing cocaine with intent to supply, saying it occurred for only two weeks when he felt he had no alternative than to do as directed.

Jamie Baxter, defending, said: “It wasn’t a sophisticated enterprise. It was short-lived. The problem with young men taking drugs is that you run up debt. Those higher up the chain, those with influence, exploit and coerce decent young men like Mr Conway into trafficking drugs for them.”

But since last July, Conway had voluntarily addressed his drug problem, been offered an apprenticeship and distanced himself from negative-influence peers.

As a result, Recorder Andrew Nuttall took the “exceptional course” of suspending a 20-month jail term for 18 months. Conway must complete 220 hours’ unpaid work and rehabilitation, and was told by the judge: “You know very much now your future is in your own hands.”