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'Backlog of work' led to 15-month delay in bringing drug dealer to court

PUBLISHED: 15:33 03 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:33 03 October 2019

Norwich Crown Court. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Norwich Crown Court. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk

'Backlogs' in police investigators trawling through mobile phone data led to a 15-month delay in bringing a cannabis dealer to court.

Billie-Paul Lawson's home was searched by police in July last year, when they found cannabis packaged and evidence of dealing on a mobile phone.

The 31-year-old admitted being concerned in the supply of cannabis, producing cannabis and being concerned in the supply of cannabis.

William Carter, mitigating, said it had been exactly a year between the search of Lawson's home in Downham Market and a postal requisition charging him to court.

Prosecutor Martin Ivory said police had given "an explanation, but not an excuse" for the 15-month delay.

"Questions have been asked of police and there were some issues in downloading of mobile phones," he said.

"There are becoming quite lengthy delays and a backlog of work."

He added there had been "inertia" over whether to forensically examine the drugs and "issues in transmission of the papers between police and the CPS".

"There were a number of unsatisfactory problems in the process," he said.

Police had searched Lawson's home on July 19 last year and found a maturing cannabis plant, 224 grams of dried cannabis and nine mobile phones.

On examination one showed texts consistent with drug dealing.

Mr Carter said Lawson, of Croft Road, Wisbech, was a drug user himself and sold it to fund his own habit.

"He appears to have used the last 15 months productively," he said. "He says he doesn't take cannabis any more, but in fairness, everyone says that.

"Particularly taking into account the delay, justice could be done by the imposition of a short sentence which could be suspended."

Judge Katharine Moore gave Lawson six months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered him to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work.

"In the year that passed following police discovering your involvement in cannabis you have made some changes in your life," she said.

"People who deal cannabis very often go to prison. You have been very fortunate today."

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