A HEROIN dealer has been told he has enjoyed 'a lucky escape' when he appeared before a judge.
Julian Knott, who became addicted to the drug following a diagnosis of cancer, wept as he was given a suspended prison sentence when he appeared at Teesside Crown Court.
And after racking up debts he turned to selling the drug in order to keep his dealer happy.
Emma Atkinson, prosecuting, said police were alerted to a suspected drug deal taking place in an alleyway of Lister Street in Hartlepool.
She told the court that following a short chase, Knott was caught by officers, who discovered five bags of heroin, worth £370 in his pockets.
A search of his rucksack revealed another £50 worth of the drug, some digital scales, mobile phone and £170 in cash.
When police analysed the mobile phone it contained a number of messages talking about 'good batches and bad batches'.
The 56-year-old, of Colwyn Road, Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to one charge of possession with intent to supply a Class A drug following his arrest in July last year.
In mitigation, Stephen Constantine, said his client's life started to unravel following a diagnosis of cancer.
"He dealt with it so badly that he turned to heroin," he said. "Things quite quickly blew up and he found himself an a situation where he accrued a debt with his dealer; they made demands for payment and that's when he started dealing."
Mr Constantine said the former merchant seaman managed to find enough money to travel to Spain for treatment to kick his heroin habit.
Judge Deborah Sherwin sentenced Knott to two years in custody suspended for two years – reducing the defendant to tears of relief.
"You have had a lucky escape, as I'm sure you realise," she said. "Take advantage of this and don't let it happen again otherwise you will be facing several years in custody."
Knott was ordered to carry out 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days and serve a three month curfew.