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5th Jul, 2022

'Opium den' Leamington man escapes jail but loses home

A MAN who allowed his Leamington home to be used as an ‘opium den’ has escaped being jailed despite almost £1500 worth of drugs being found in the flat.

Stephen Gould had pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to possessing quantities of heroin and crack cocaine with intent to supply them.

But on the day of his trial Gould, who had admitted possessing the drugs for personal use, pleaded guilty to a further charge of permitting his premises to be used for smoking opium.

The 55 year-old who has since been evicted from his home in Epperstone Court, as a result of the offences, was sentenced to six months in prison suspended for two years.

After being told there was not going to be a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act in relation to cash found at the flat, Judge Andrew Lockhart QC also ordered him to pay £500 costs.

Prosecutor Simon Hunka said that in February last year the police executed a search warrant at Gould’s flat, and found him there with one other person.

Inside they found quantities of crack cocaine and heroin with a combined street value of almost £1,500.

They also found electronic scales, crack pipes, £537 in cash, and ten mobile phones, although no link could be established between the phones and Gould, pointed out Mr Hunka.

When he was arrested and interviewed, Gould said that all the drugs were his and for personal use, explaining that he would buy in bulk to save money.

And he said the cash was money he had saved from his benefit payments towards a holiday.

Mr Hunka added Gould had some old convictions from the 1980s, but his last conviction was on Jersey in 2001 for possessing drugs.

Judge Andrew Lockhart QC commented: “He plainly has a drugs problem, and has had for years.

“He said people would come to his home on a regular basis. It seems everybody would go there to take their own drugs.”

When Gould entered his plea it was said that he would sometimes take drugs as payment for letting people use his flat – and his barrister Clare Evans said that was what had led to the police raid.

And she said that as a result of allowing the flat to be used for taking drugs, he was served with an eviction notice, and was ‘booted out’ on April 20 and was now homeless and staying with various friends.

In relation to Gould’s drug-taking, Miss Evans said: “He is finally off heroin completely, according to the Recovery Partnership, and is not even on Methadone any more.

“He does still take crack, but he has been very keen to kick the heroin habit because he was in a very bad condition, and his arms are still bandaged.”

Sentencing Gould, Judge Lockhart told him: “You were, across the course of February last year, using large amounts of controlled drugs of class A.

“Allowing your premises to be used for the smoking of those drugs is a serious matter; and the police chose to close down your premises, which was a real nuisance in the area.

“But since the time of these offences, you have had good interaction with the Recovery Partnership,” said the judge, who added that he was reserving any breaches of the order to himself.

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