A DEALER who planned to sell ecstasy at festivals has been spared jail – even though the judge said the drug could have proved deadly.

Jake Turner, 26, of Worcester, had hatched a plan to sell potentially lethal MDMA, also known as ecstasy, at festivals to pay off a drugs debt.

When his flat was searched he had £1,500 in the high purity class A drug already divided up into deal bags, cannabis, magic mushrooms and £1,200 in cash made from street dealing.

However, Judge Jim Tindal decided to give Turner a suspended sentence at Worcester Crown Court on Friday, citing the impact a prison sentence would have on the defendant's family.

This was despite the judge's own comments that the drug causes deaths at festivals. It also runs against sentencing guidelines which stipulate that only in unusual circumstances should someone caught street dealing be spared prison.

The starting point in the sentencing guidelines is a prison term of four years and six months.

The decision would also appear to be at odds with remarks made by Judge Robert Juckes QC, the Recorder of Worcester, who said in February that he and his fellow judges at the city's crown court would jail people for dealing class A drugs – a tough stance welcomed by a police commander.

Superintendent Damian Pettit said prison sentences for dealers sent out the message that Worcester was no 'soft touch'.

Turner, of Cranham Drive, Warndon, admitted two counts of possession of class A drug MDMA with intent to supply, one of possession of class B drug cannabis with intent to supply and a further charge of possession of Psilocin, more commonly known as 'magic mushrooms' (a class A drug).

Turner was stopped in his Renault Megane by police in Hanbury Road, Bromsgrove on July 3, 2017 and noticed a smell of cannabis.

He failed a roadside drugs test although a subsequent one at the police station showed he was not over the drug drive limit.

Michael Aspinall, prosecuting, said Turner's car was searched and officers found a 'man bag' containing cannabis, a cannabis grinder and a block of uncut MDMA. His address was then searched and police found 50 snap bags with 1g of cannabis in each and 30 others containing MDMA.

Mr Aspinall said there were 'numerous' other bags containing 'magic mushrooms' which he said produced 'psychedelic effects'.

Two envelopes were found - one containing £500 and the other £620 and a further block of MDMA.

Mr Aspinall said the MDMA was at 70 per cent purity which was much higher than that of the ecstasy often seized.

The drugs seized were valued at £1,500. Mobile phone analysis also revealed texts about dealing. In interview Turner initially claimed the drugs were for his own use and said he had paid £400 for MDMA to use himself at festivals.

Turner was interviewed a second time after the search of his flat, telling police he had started using cocaine in his early 20s and had 'a growing and expensive addiction' and had run up debts of £3,000.

"At 23 he had a heart attack and stopped using cocaine but he was being pursued for the debt he had incurred before he stopped using drugs," said Mr Aspinall.

In his basis of plea, Turner said he had been supplying cannabis to eight or nine friends in 2017 up until his arrest in July. When his son was born in February 2017 he was 'desperate to clear his debt' by selling the class A drug.

Mr Aspinall added: "He had bought MDMA a few weeks before his arrest with the intention of selling it at upcoming festivals but, due to his arrest, he had not been able to sell any."

Turner had no previous convictions. The £1,200 in cash found at his home, the proceeds of his dealing, had already been seized by police.

Barry Newton, defending, provided a 'plethora of references' on his client's behalf but accepted that the custody threshold had been crossed.

"Unlike many he has been able to claw himself out of the abyss," said Mr Newton.

Judge Jim Tindal said he was prepared to go outside the guidelines and suspend the sentence.

He said: "You say you were planning to sell ecstasy at festivals. People die at festivals from taking ecstasy.

"It's an incredibly unsafe place and circumstances in which to do it. Ecstasy itself is an incredibly dangerous drug. If you do it in a tent miles away from the nearest hospital when you're drinking and when you don't have any of the normal things to hand, that's the reason people die. You didn't think about that."

The judge said Turner had instead been thinking of his drugs debt and his child and could not complain if he was sent to prison.

However, he said Turner had never been convicted before, there were 'personal reasons' behind what he did, it was two years since the offences and they were 'out of character'.

Judge Tindal also cited comments by the probation service that this was a 'very unusual case', that Turner was at a low risk of reoffending and there was a realistic prospect of rehabilitation.

Judge Tindal imposed a two year prison sentence suspended for two years.

He also placed Turner on a three month curfew 'over the festival period' which will run daily between 7pm and 7am. Turner must also complete 150 hours of unpaid work. He must also pay a £250 contribution towards costs.