A HOMELESS teen forced to hold onto drugs by unscrupulous dealers to pay off a £5,000 debt was picked up by police in Wetherspoons.
Lei Smart had already carried drugs an estimated three to five times when he was arrested in the Savoy in November last year.
The 19-year-old had split up the 25 wraps of heroin and crack cocaine, £210 cash and drugs phone he was given with a female friend.
Judge Jason Taylor QC handed down a 14-month jail sentence suspended for two years, labelling Smart’s case a sad one.
Swindon Crown Court heard Smart had had a difficult upbringing. He was taken from the family home by social services aged seven after concerns were raised about drug taking and violence.
Prosecuting, Colin Meeke said police were called on November 19 to reports of drug dealing in the Regent Circus area and given a description of those involved.
Smart was picked up in the Savoy pub, Regent Street. Mr Meeke said Smart stood out like a sore thumb as his jacket matched that described by the caller.
Together with a female friend, Smart was stopped and searched. Between the two of them they had crack cocaine and heroin with an estimated street value of £250, along with cash and a mobile phone on which were messages indicating someone had been dealing drugs.
He told police the drugs were his, that he had been given them by a dealer and told to hang onto them until he was contacted by the gang.
Michelle James, for the probation service, said Smart had been targeted by the drug dealers. He had racked up a debt to the dealers. As a cannabis user he was at one point smoking £10 of the class B drug a day.
He spoke of being told to get in a vehicle, threatened and given the first package of drugs to keep safe. He had held drugs for the gangsters between three and five times over two months.
Smart told Ms James: “I have got myself caught up in a situation that I can’t get out of.”
Smart, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to two counts of being concerned in the supply of class A drugs.
Defending, Emma Handslip said her client had been flagged three years ago as at risk of being exploited by criminals. His previous convictions, which included burglary and weapons possession, were usually committed either because he was desperate to feed himself or because he had been persuaded to do it by another.
“He is somebody who has slipped through the cracks. When he does and he’s homeless he is ripe for exploitation,” she told the court.
Smart was petrified of going to prison. He was working and keen to turn his life around.
Judge Taylor described the mitigation in Smart’s favour as sad but strong: “I want you to make starts in your life and put your past behind you.”
He was ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work and 20 rehabilitation activity days. In a final warning, Judge Taylor said: “If you start holding drugs again you will be back before the court and you will be going to prison.”