A CANNABIS dealer was pressured into the trade after selling a faulty car.

Robert Ashley, who was caught with 2.5kg of the class B drug, sold a car someone described in court yesterday simply as “a certain individual he is frightened of”.

The car developed a fault and its new owner demanded 46-year-old Ashley repay the money. He no longer had the cash, having used it to pay off a debt to another friend.

Prosecutor Tessa Hingston told Swindon Crown Court that police officers pulled over Ashley’s Peugeot van on the A429 near Malmesbury on January 17 last year.

Inside the van was Ashley, his partner and a nine-year-old child. Also in the vehicle was just under a kilo of cannabis in a Sports Direct bag, scales, a jug used to measure the drugs, and over £1,000 cash in his wallet, pockets and by the driver’s seat.

A search of his home in Kemble uncovered £4,040 cash in two bedroom drawers.

In total, police found £5,070 in cash and 2.46kg of cannabis.

Interviewed by the police, he gave a statement saying he wasn’t prepared to say whose the items were as his life could be at risk. In a basis of plea, Ashley claimed he had been under pressure and had debts of £30,000.

However, after reading through a number of financial statements, Judge Jason Taylor QC rejected that figure. He accepted Ashley had been in debt but suggested the dealer may have been “overegging the pudding”.

Sentencing him to a year’s imprisonment suspended for two years, the judge said: “There is no doubt that you were dealing small quantities and at times what might be referred to as more wholesale quantities and you were making a profit.

“While your phone could not be analysed it was, to use a colloquial expression, ringing off the hook.”

A police drugs expert estimated that the cannabis could have been worth up to £25,000 if sold as 1g deals, although the true profit was likely to have been lower if Ashley was dealing in larger amounts. The court concluded his profit would have been at least £8,500.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard:

Robert Ashley outside Swindon Crown Court Picture: ADVER PHOTOGRAPHER

Ashley, of Arnolds Mead, Corsham, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply cannabis.

Mitigating, Mark Ashley said his client took the threats that had been made against him very seriously. “It was a debt that never really went away. We all know when you’re forced to assist these sort of people, when you think that debt has gone they’ve got a completely different conclusion.”

He had no previous convictions for drugs supply. He was a father and his new partner and her children relied upon him. He cared for his elderly mother two days a week. He was not in work.

Ashley was ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work and 10 rehabilitation activity requirement days as part of his suspended sentence.