'Bullied' drug user who sent texts to 'bossman' about deals avoids prison after being caught on M54
A drug user who was caught up in County Lines dealing to pay for his habit has avoided prison - despite being caught with a knife for a second time.
Miles Patterson, aged 21, was found to be in possession of nine wraps of heroin, one of cocaine and a large blade when police pulled over a car in which he was the passenger on the M54.
Also discovered were a series of texts on his "burner" phone consistent with drug dealing. He sent messages to his "bossman" in a drugs operation for which police used the codename the "Stretch line".
Shrewsbury Crown Court was told how officers on patrol observed a Skoda Fabia in "a poor state of repair" near Junction 3 for Shifnal on July 2, 2021.
Police pulled the vehicle over on the hard shoulder and searched Patterson, a back seat passenger. He was found to be in possession of the illegal items, as well as £35 in cash. He was arrested and interviewed by police.
Patterson, of Grove Vale Avenue, Great Barr, pleaded guilty to two counts of being concerned in the supply of a class A drug and possession of a bladed article in a public place.
Philip Beardwell, prosecuting, told the court that Patterson has previously been convicted for possession of a blade having been caught with a knife on a train to Bristol.
Balvinder Bhatti, mitigating, said at the time of these offences Patterson was 17, and that he was "vulnerable" due to his age and drug debt for using cannabis.
"He had been bullied throughout his life," she said, referring to why he had the knife in his possession. "He was told to keep it in the car."
Ms Bhatti said Patterson no longer uses drugs and has "moved on".
Judge Peter Barrie told Patterson: "When you were 17 you were using cannabis and built up a debt to your drug dealer.
"They used that debt to get you involved [in dealing].
"It seems to me you were taken advantage of. To that extent, you were something of a victim as well."
In terms of carrying the knife, the judge told Patterson that "being afraid" was "not a reason" to do so, and that it could cause a "catastrophic" injury.
"Weapons of this kind, you must not have with you in public," he said.
The judge handed Patterson a 21-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months. Patterson must do 60 hours of unpaid work and a group working programme.
Judge Barrie also ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the drugs and knife.