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Judge reprimands police for ‘intolerable delays’ in bringing teenage drug dealer to court

South Wales police officers have been harshly reprimanded by a Crown Court judge for keeping a teenage drug dealer waiting for 19 months to be sentenced.

Nicholas Harris was just 17 when he was arrested and charged by police officers for possessing almost 40 grams of cannabis with intent to supply it to others.

But the matter wasn’t brought before magistrates until January of this year, when Harris, of Southgate Street, Neath, pleaded guilty to the charge before Swansea magistrates.

Today (Wednesday), he appeared before Swansea Crown Court for sentence.

When Justice Paul Thomas KC learned of the length of time the defendant has had to wait for the case to reach the law courts, his condemnation of South Wales police was considerable.

“It’s wholly unacceptable that there’s been that much of a delay in dealing with a 17-year-old when there could be a term of imprisonment,” he said.

“The message to the police is that their delay has been disgraceful.  The CPS has acted quickly after the case was sent to them, but it’s intolerable that a 17-year-old should be kept waiting for as long as he did.”

Harris was arrested on August 13, 2021, after police were called to a property in Neath where the defendant lived with his mother.

They discovered Harris in his bedroom where he admitted smoking cannabis on a regular basis.

  During a search of the bedroom, police discovered 39.9 grams of cannabis which had an estimated street value of £350.  They also found £80 in cash, some empty snap bags and a mobile phone found to contain text messages suggesting he had been involved in the supply of drugs for around five months.

When spoken to about his involvement, Harris told the officers ‘It’s only Class B, though’.  He said he was dealing with two users and was being paid on tic to help fund his personal cannabis use.

Harris was represented in court by barrister Eifion Williams KC who stated his client’s drug problem extended back to his early teenage years.

“It’s been normal for him to see his mother taking drugs and as a result, his drug-taking started when he was 15 years old,” he said. 

“His remorse for what he’s done is genuine and it’s likely that you will never see this man before the courts again.”

Nicholas Harris, who is now 19, was sentenced to 16 weeks in a young offenders’ institution, suspended for 12 months.  He must also carry out 25 rehabilitation requirement activity days and 200 hours of unpaid work.

A forfeiture and destruction order was imposed on the cannabis.