WHEN police officers pulled over a Knowle man for speeding, they unexpectedly discovered he had more than £20,000 worth of cannabis in his car.
But despite admitting he had been planning to sell the drug, which he had bought on credit, Benjamin Birch narrowly avoided being jailed.
He had pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to possessing just over 3.5 kilos of cannabis in April with intent to supply it.
Birch (30) of Hertford Way, Knowle, was sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended for two years and was ordered to do 250 hours of unpaid work and to pay £1,200 costs.
Kathryn Roughton, prosecuting, said that on April 21 officers on patrol in an unmarked police car saw Birch overtake them at about 80mph on a 50mph road.
They pulled him over intending to issue him with a fixed penalty ticket – but when they went over to the car they noticed a strong smell of cannabis.
In the passenger footwell they found three small bags of the drug – and three buckets of it in the boot.
Altogether the officers recovered 125 ounces (3.53 kilos) of cannabis which Birch said he was buying for £23,500 with the intention of selling it on for £25,000.
He said he had bought it on credit from someone he would not name, planning to sell it on for a profit, but had not been able to do so.
Birch said that when he was stopped he was on his way back from an unsuccessful sale and was hoping to be able to return it to the person he had bought it from.
Andrew Tucker, defending, said Birch, who had no previous convictions and is married with a young son, had been in financial difficulty at the time because of the depression in the building industry.
Judge Paul Farrer QC commented: “In the normal way this would attract a sentence of 18 months. But there are, in my judgement, particular circumstances which make the recommendation in the pre-sentence report a realistic one.”
And he told Birch: “This is a serious offence and could attract an 18-month sentence, even after a guilty plea.
“But you are a man of positive good character; honest, reliable, hard-working, kind and caring, and I accept this was uncharacteristic.
“You support a wife and a young child, and the effect of sending you to prison would involve the loss of the family income. It seems to me you do not have to go to prison today.”