A cannabis dealer had put his ‘wild teenage years’ behind him since his arrest two years ago, a court heard.

Tony Cooke, 21, was collared by police in Park Road, Didcot, in July 2019 with more than 11g of potent skunk cannabis in the boot of his car.

He claimed the drugs, which had a street value of around £130, were for his own use.

But his illicit side line selling the class B drug was unmasked by messages on a phone found in the car.

Prosecutor Alice Aubrey-Fletcher told Oxford Crown Court the phone contained a ‘tick list’ of customers who owed Cooke drug debts and messages setting up where and when the cannabis could be collected.

One text message pointed to the dealer having stooge to deliver drugs on his behalf. The message to Cooke’s phone read: “Whereabout is your runner, G?”

He initially denied possession with intent to supply cannabis, saying the drugs were for his own use. He changed his pleas before the trial at the magistrates’ court.

Sentencing him to nine months’ imprisonment suspended for two years, Judge Ian Pringle QC recognised that Cooke had done everything he could to put his ‘wild teenage years’ behind him.

“Those who deal drugs on the streets of this country almost inevitably lose their liberty and you have been remanded in custody for a little while now,” he told the defendant, who appeared in court via video link from Bullingdon prison.

“But there’s one very significant feature about your case and it is this; the man who was in that car on July 30, 2019, is not the man who’s sitting in front of me today.

“You have, since that time, completely changed your life around.”

He added: “You’re 21, Mr Cooke, make sure that as you start out on your adult life this is the last time you come before the court. Good luck to you.”

Mitigating, Bethan Chichester said her client, who had a number of convictions as a young, used his arrest as the prompt to change his life.

He was now a father, had a steady job and his own accommodation. References spoke highly of him and he had won an ‘inspiring young person of the year’ award in 2019.

The youngster, who was just 19-years-old when he was arrested two years ago, no longer took drugs, had cut ties with his former associates and deleted his old social media accounts.

Cooke, of Longworth, near Abingdon, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to possession with intent to supply cannabis.

As part of his suspended sentence order, Cooke must complete 80 hours of unpaid work, the thinking skills programme and up to 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

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