A DEBT-STRICKEN drugs courier who was caught transporting an £80,000 consignment of cannabis on the M6 near Carlisle was the victim of "pressure" from his dealers, a court heard.

Thomas Watson, 22, who owed around £3,000 to his suppliers, had also suffered a serious stab wound as a result of his involvement in the drug-running operation, the city’s Rickergate court heard.

The defendant pleaded guilty to possessing the class B drug with intent to supply.

Prosecutor Pam Ward said Watson was caught near Southwaite Services on the M6 on May 1 as he drove northwards. Police noticed him because he was driving in the centre lane and not overtaking.

When his car was stopped, the officers found a cannabis grinder in the front part of the car while in the rear was eight kilos of the class B drug, with an estimated street value of £80,000.

Mrs Ward said the prosecution accepted the defendant’s basis of plea. This was that he was guilty on the basis that the journey was a “one off”; that it was undertaken in exchange for the writing off of his £3,000 debt to dealers; and thirdly that he had been subjected to threats of violence.

He said that his dealers had instructed him to take the drugs from Teeside to Scotland to expunge his debt and that since he was caught he had been hospitalised as a result of the prosecution.

“He has no previous convictions,” added Mrs Ward.

Mark Shepherd, defending, said the defendant’s role in the supply operation was limited and that he had no influence on those above him in the chain.

“He has been exploited because of his cannabis debt,” said the lawyer. “The financial gain for him was the extinguishing of the debt he had accrued. That came about as a result of bereavement followed by a serious road traffic accident.

“He has been using cannabis to medicate his symptoms.”

There was corroboration that the defendant had been hospitalised following a stabbing as a result of the case and Watson had shown genuine remorse, said Mr Shepherd. Magistrates said they needed background reports before sentence can be passed.

The adjourned the case until May 24 and granted the defendant, of Bilsdale Gardens, Guisborough, bail until that day.