A drugs courier from Kirkby vomited up a wrap of heroin in front of armed police officers on the forecourt of a petrol-station, a court heard.
But father-of-two David Smith-Barlow, 25, was spared prison after a judge read several “glowing” character references, including one from his grandmother that said: “He’s a nice boy, but he just doesn’t think.”
Nottingham Crown Court was told that Smith-Barlow, of Abbey Road, was travelling as a backseat passenger in a car believed to be involved in drug dealing.
It was pursued by police after a tip-off at 6.30 pm on Saturday, July 30 last year, and officers swooped when it pulled into a petrol station on the A60 near Ravenshead.
“Smith-Barlow tried to get away and in a struggle, he swallowed something,” said David Allen, prosecuting.
“As he fell to the ground, he vomited up a wrap of 8.4 grams of heroin. A second package, containing two wraps, was then found at his feet.
“In total, there were 11.4 grams of heroin, with a street value of about £1,100.”
Smith-Barlow was taken to hospital before being arrested, but no further drugs were found inside him. He tested positive for opiates, but a search of his home uncovered nothing relating to drugs.
Insider the car were found a baseball bat, a bow and two arrows, a hammer and a bundle of notes. The driver and another passenger were also arrested.
Mr Allen added: “We accept that Smith-Barlow played a lesser role in the drug dealing operation, perhaps acting as a custodian or courier, but he wasn’t acting in ignorance. He knew what was going on.”
Smith-Barlow, who has a record of 11 previous convictions between 2006 and 2011, pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of heroin with intent to supply.
His barrister, Digby Johnson, mitigating, said that, since 2011, his family had taken steps to ensure he “made a fresh start”, moving from Nottingham city centre to Kirkby. And by finding work and going to college, he had “made a substantial change to his life”.
However, he harboured a secret addiction to class A drugs, which “had had a hold on him” from his time spent in a young offender’s institution.
“He kept it from his family because he was embarrassed as well as addicted,” said Mr Johnson.
“But he was buying heroin, built up a debt and was put under pressure to carry and look after drugs as a lieutenant.”
Mr Johnson said that, since his arrest, Smith-Barlow had “done everything he can to distance himself from the people he had been transacting with”.
“He has sorted it out, and his last five drugs tests have been negative,” the barrister added. “He has two children, aged five, and a little boy is due to be born on April 2.”
As well as a pre-sentence report by the probation service, the judge, Recorder Simon Ward, read references from the mother of one of Smith-Barlow’s children, his own mother, his grandmother and the manager of Keyworth United Football Club, for whom he played.
In sentencing him to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, the judge told him: “Heroin causes untold misery for people.
“You know how much harm it can do, which makes it harder to understand why you got involved in dealing. Somebody else was in charge of what was going on, but you still played a part.
“Dealing in class A drugs is serious and is a blight on society. It should carry an immediate prison-sentence.
“However, my mind has been altered by the probation report and the references that have been written about you and the fact that you have taken significant steps since your arrest to combat your problems with drugs.”
The judge also ordered that Smith-Barlow carries out 100 hours of unpaid work in the community and goes on a Think First course. He must pay court costs of £535.