Page last updated at 17:30 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009

Drug-dealing milkman spared jail

Robert Holding
Robert Holding was told his sentence was an "act of mercy"

A milkman who supplied cannabis to customers to ease their aches and pains has walked free from court.

Robert Holding, 72, of Fair View Road, Burnley, admitted possession and supply of cannabis and received a suspended prison sentence at Burnley Crown Court.

The court heard that his wife has Alzheimer's disease and recently moved into a care home.

Judge Beverley Lunt told Holding the sentence was "an act of mercy" in light of his wife's illness.

A previous hearing was told how Holding delivered the drug while doing his rounds to 17 customers he had built up through "word-of-mouth".

He admitted at an earlier hearing to supplying cannabis resin between April and July 2008, and possessing cannabis with intent to supply on 17 July last year.

Prosecutor Sarah Statham told the court that police found out about his activities and raided his property when his wife and daughter were at home.

'Extremely frank'

During the raid, Holding arrived home in the van he used for his milk round and officers found nearly 6oz (167g) of cannabis split into 15 separate packets in an egg crate in the vehicle.

Miss Statham said the smallest amount the packets contained was 0.1oz (3g) of the drug and the largest amount was 0.7oz (20g).

She said the cannabis had an estimated street value of 450.

She added that Holding was "extremely frank" during the course of the police interview.

She said: "He said he sold the cannabis to existing customers because they were old and had aches and pains.

"He said he sold a 9oz (255g) bar about every three weeks and sold it for a relatively cheap value.

He misguidedly believed he was providing a public service
Judge Beverley Lunt

"He said that customers left him notes saying, for example, 'Can I have an ounce this week or can I have an eighth?'."

The court heard that Holding has been married for 53 years and has six children and 28 grandchildren.

Philip Holden, for the defence, said in mitigation that his client became tearful at the thought of being sent to prison and not being able to see his wife.

"He is very fearful that her mental health will deteriorate further if he's unable to see her on a daily basis," he said.

He said an unusual feature of the case was that Holding "wasn't making much of a profit" and said he made more of a profit on his milk round.

He said his oldest client was 92 and added: "Word had got out that he was a man who could supply cannabis to those of a certain age with aches and pains and he misguidedly believed he was providing a public service."

Mr Holden said Holding sold the drug far below its street value, selling one-eighth for 4.10 as opposed to the 10 it would normally fetch.

Judge Lunt said: "You were not some philanthropist helping out the elderly out of the good of your heart. You dealt drugs for profit in a calculated way. It was a business."

She added: "You didn't consider what effect those drugs might have had on the people you were supplying."

Holding received a 36-week sentence for each count, suspended for one year.

He also received a one-year supervision order.

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