Cocaine dealer spared prison in ‘exceptional’ move

Scales of justice
Scales of justice
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A father-of-three caught with almost £12,000 worth of cocaine in a taxi office has been handed a suspended sentence.

Mark Charles Black, 42, with an address at a men’s hostel in Utility Street in south Belfast, had pleaded guilty to possessing cocaine with intent to supply and also possessing the class A drug.

Belfast Crown Court heard that police were called to the Fonacab office on Belfast’s Ormeau Road on December 21, 2016, after a man was spotted by a member of the public with a knife protruding out the back of his tracksuit trousers.

Prosecution lawyer Gareth Purvis told Judge Geoffrey Miller QC that Black was also in the taxi office at the time and was searched by police and found to have a quantity of cocaine on him.

The court heard a total of 192 grammes of cocaine with 6% purity was found in two plastic bags, which had a street value of between £7,000 and £11,250.

Judge Miller heard that £400 in cash was found on him, but Black claimed it was money for Christmas presents.

The court heard it was accepted by the prosecution that the defendant was selling the drugs to his friends and was not doing it for commercial profit.

The court heard that at the time of his arrest Black was in breach of a suspended sentence. He had eight previous convictions, including one for possession of drugs and one for conspiracy to rob.

Defence barrister Ian Turkington said Black had drug addiction issues, adding the case was “a wake up call” for his client.

Judge Miller sentenced Black to a determinate custodial sentence of 28 months, which he suspended for three years.

The judge said that he was “taking the exceptional course of action” given the length of time the case had been hanging over Black’s head, that he had not come to police attention since, and because he was a child carer.