A Birmingham man described as having a 'very good character' who had given in to his weakness - cocaine - was caught with the drug in Guernsey and hauled before the island's Royal Court, where he narrowly avoided a prison sentence.
The Court heard how Liam Bucknall, 36, previously had an impeccable character, and was a family man with strong ties to his local community, so Judge Russell Finch and the Jurats decided to let him walk on this occasion with a 150 hour community service order and a £500 fine.
He had only turned to the drugs, his lawyer Advocate Liam Roffey claimed, because of the death of his father at the end of last year and heightening work stress.
Bucknall was stopped while driving off a Condor ferry earlier in the summer, and asked if he had any illegal substances on him. Initially he said he did not, but Customs Officers could see he was fidgety and nervous. When asked if he had taken any drugs, he said he had only once smoked cannabis as a child, but as Officers started to search his luggage, they found traces of cocaine in his holdall.
Bucknall then claimed he had once done cocaine, but then traces were found on his shoes, so he admitted doing it more recently. As the search continued his story quickly unraveled and, with the help of a drugs search dog, a bag of cocaine was located in his pocket, and then a larger bag of cocaine and some cannabis was found on a shelf above the van's driver's seat.
Pictured: Bucknall was stop checked when driving off a Condor ferry. He had Class A drugs in his pocket and in his van. He was charged with two counts of importation.
In total, there was 0.75g of cocaine in Bucknall's pocket, 1.54g of cannabis in his van and 2.55g of cocaine in the van. This was approximately £330 to £495 worth of cocaine and £30 worth of cannabis.
During a police interview, the defendant said the drugs were for his personal use and that he was not a supplier. He was coming to Guernsey to work at a hotel undergoing some renovations - a story which was confirmed by Guernsey Police, and had bought the drugs for some "me time" when he had finished his job.
Advocate Roffey said his client had the other drugs in his van because he never brought them in to his house to keep them away from his family. While Bucknall had used illegal substances in his youth, he had stopped for many years, but had turned to them again following the sudden death of his father at the end of the last year.
The Court also heard how Bucknall was thankful he had been caught, and that he had already been punished in some ways. He was no longer allowed to volunteer at his local Rugby club because of his conviction, and had to pay for many flights to and from Guernsey for court proceedings.
Pictured: A letter from Bucknall's wife was read out in Court urging them to see the good man he was.
Because of Bucknall's long list of commendable actions in his community, the Royal Court decided to spare him going to prison, and gave him community service, which he will complete in England, as a direct alternative to nine months in prison. But Judge Finch warned him if he ever "fouled up so spectacularly" again, he would not be looked on so well.
"If you do not comply with every minute of this community service order, we can have you brought back here on a warrant. You will be locked up over there, then you will be locked up here, and given at least nine months of prison time," he said.
"This court has had an awful lot of drug cases, and looking at this matter, I can only form the conclusion that you have been a complete mug.
"I don't know what your late father would have thought about this, and I don't know how you are going to explain this to your children. You are walking today, but you won't walk again."
Pictured top: Guernsey's Royal Court.
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