A CALNE man bought £8,000-worth of cannabis to sell after his partner was put on furlough, a court heard.

Darren Smith, 33, was caught behind the wheel of a Ford Transit van in the Wiltshire town last April. Police had received a tip off that the van’s driver was linked to the drugs trade.

In a rucksack on the seat, police found half a kilo of herbal cannabis divided into deal bags. He was said to have been delivering the drugs.

Officers searched two properties in Pewsham. At Smith’s parents’ house, the officers found a large amount of cannabis in a clear jar. They also found £4,550 cash in a safe.

Prosecutor Catherine Flint told Swindon Crown Court on Monday that, in total, police uncovered 1.3kg of cannabis and £4,500 cash. The weight was disputed by the defendant, who said he’d only bought 1kg, half of which he’d taken with him in the van.

Smith had just one caution for cannabis possession dating back to 2003, when he was a youth. It was suggested he was a “significant role” drug dealer as he was supplying drugs to make money and he had a good understanding of the scale of the operation.

Peter Binder, for Smith, said his client had been approached by a cannabis user who asked him if he knew where he could obtain the class B drug. “He did know someone who was in the trade, as it were, and he stupidly - as he well recognises - saw there was an opportunity for him to make some money as a middle man.”

The barrister said: “He stands before the court today, a young man with an excellent employment record, in gainful employment, who really for the first time if you disregard the youthful digression for possession of cannabis in 2003, stands before the court for the first time having made a really serious error of judgement in pursuit of what he perceived to be a financial situation with [his partner] having just been placed on furlough.”

He was remorseful. A number of references spoke of his good character.

Smith, of Dunnet Close, Calne, pleaded guilty at the magistrates’ court to being concerned in the supply of a class B drug.

Sentencing him to 16 months’ imprisonment suspended for two years, Judge Jason Taylor QC told Smith: “You recognise, in my judgement, the seriousness of the position that you put yourself in. I think it’s been a salutary experience for you.

“It’s come home to roost that you fear the consequences of going to prison. It would affect your career...you’d lose your home, you’d lose your relationship, you even tell me you’d lose your pets. The reality is you’ve got a lot to lose.”

Smith must carry out 200 hours of unpaid work, 10 rehabilitation activity days and pay £340 costs.