A BROCKENHURST FC player who was caught with more than £12,000 worth of cannabis for dealing has narrowly avoided being sent to jail.
Jude Nwachukwu (25), who was signed to the team in 2015 and previously played for Blackfield and Langley FC, appeared at Southampton Crown Court having already pleaded guilty to possessing the class B drug with intent to supply.
Prosecutor Jane Rowley told the court the defendant had been driving his car in Southampton on 12th May last year when he was stopped by police officers.
He drew suspicion after behaving impatiently as he waited at a red light.
There was a strong smell of cannabis in the vehicle, she said, and when Nwachukwu was searched by officers at the roadside, they found numerous bags of the drug and £800 in cash.
Following his arrest, a search of a shared flat in Southampton where Nwachukwu had been living was carried out.
In his locked bedroom officers found £8,500 in cash in a safe box and cannabis with a street value of £12,840, which had been prepared for sale. Also in his room was a quantity of drugs paraphernalia, including scales and deal bags.
The court heard that when questioned by police and asked if he used drugs, the defendant replied: “I do not.”
Defending, Richard Elliot told the court that Nwachukwu was an educated young man who had been studying business management at Southampton University when his mother fell ill.
Although he passed the first year of the course, he had to retake the second and failed to complete the third when returning home to care for his mother became too much.
His client used to smoke cannabis heavily, he said, but had dramatically reduced his consumption. After getting into debt with a friend, he began dealing drugs for him.
Mr Elliott added: “Not all the money and drugs were his, but it would all be kept at his address.
“Clearly, he needs to be punished. A suspended sentence would hang over him and unpaid work would be giving back to the community. He can be a credit to society.”
Mr Elliott added that Nwachukwu, who lives in East Sussex and whose late mother was a nurse, wanted to work in the healthcare industry and help people with mental health issues following the suicide of a friend in 2017.
Sentencing, Judge Christopher Parker QC told him he had been “just persuaded” not to send him to prison, and imposed a two-year jail term, suspended for the same length of time.
He said: “You are 25 now and you have no previous convictions. I have read a number of references which show you come from a good family which does good within the community.
“You have had personal losses by your bereavement but you have had every advantage by having a loving family and a solid education.”
He added: “You have been very, very foolish. If you commit any offence at all in the next two years, you will come back here before me. I shall not forget you and I will send you to prison.
“You have escaped prison by the thinnest of possible whiskers here. You have been given a chance – make sure you take it.”
Nwachukwu was also ordered to carry out 280 hours of unpaid community work. Costs will be decided after a proceeds of crime hearing is held later this year.