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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Strong smell from van led to arrest of Carlisle drugs courier

A delivery driver was caught with £18,000-worth of skunk cannabis when police noticed the overpowering smell coming from his van after they stopped it on the M6 in Cumbria, Carlisle Crown Court heard.

Russell Fitzpatrick, 29, was driving home to Carlisle after picking up a package from Preston when police stopped him near Junction 36, on March 24 last year.

He initially claimed not to know what was in the parcel in the passenger seat footwell beside him but later admitted that he had been paid £500 by “a man called Charlie” to drive it up the motorway.

Fitzpatrick, of Kirkstone Crescent, Morton, pleaded guilty to possessing the cannabis in the parcel with intent to supply it.

He also admitted possessing a separate smaller piece of the drug for his own use.

The court heard that Fitzpatrick, a driver for a legitimate parcel courier, used cannabis and so was known to dealers in Carlisle.

At a time when he was “under considerable financial and emotional pressure”, they offered him money to fetch the two kilo package from Lancashire.

In mitigation, defence barrister Frank Nance said Fitzpatrick suffered from anxiety and depression so great that the last time he appeared in court he collapsed with a panic attack and had to be taken away in an ambulance.

The honorary Recorder of Carlisle, Judge Paul Batty QC, said people like Fitzpatrick played a “pivotal role” in the distribution of drugs. Anyone caught transporting drugs into Cumbria would normally be sent straight to prison, he said, but because of “extenuating circumstances” Fitzpatrick would not be.

Fitzpatrick was given a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to obey a curfew to keep him indoors at home every night for the next five months.

He was also put under probation supervision for a year, told to undergo six months’ drugs rehabilitation and to pay £500 costs.

The judge said it was Fitzpatrick’s medical history, along with the fact that he had kept out of trouble for eight years, that allowed him to pass such an “exceptionally lenient” sentence.

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