A 74-year-old grandfather caught with more than half a kilo of cannabis has been spared jail – after he told a court he was getting too old for drug dealing.
Pensioner Francis Hester, with a long history of smuggling and growing drugs, had cannabis worth between £3,000 and £4,000. The badass senior citizen claimed that he was selling the cannabis to local elderly folks in need of herbal medication and considered his action a public service.
Hester claimed that the drugs, kept in airtight containers, dated back to 2015, Plymouth Crown Court heard. His barrister, Piers Norsworthy, said: “He will not be involved in this sort of thing again. He is too old for this sort of behaviour”.
Hester was in breach of an earlier sentence for drug dealing, the court heard. But a judge said he would not send Hester to jail after hearing of his medical conditions and his family situation.
Hester, of Manadon Drive, Plymouth, pleaded guilty to possession of a Class B drug with intent to supply on August last year. He changed his plea on the eve of his trial.
The offence put him in breach of a 12-month suspended prison sentence imposed at Truro Crown Court in 2015 for dealing and growing cannabis.
Jason Beal, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said police stopped Hester at the wheel of a Fiat camper van in Oreston Road, Plymstock, on August 8 last year. He added officers smelt cannabis and found 17.24 grams of the drug in an overhead locker. Mr Beal said police found further larger packages of cannabis at his home. He added that in total he had 630 grams of the drug worth between £3,000 and £4,000. The barrister said that Hester claimed the drugs were left over from his last cannabis grow of 2015.
The court heard that Hester was jailed for eight years in 1992 for smuggling the drug into the country. Mr Norsworthy said that Hester was the sole carer for his partner, who was eight years his senior. He added that the couple each suffered from health difficulties. The barrister said there were signs Hester may be suffering from early-onset dementia.
After hearing his Breaking Bad-like story, a judge for the Plymouth Crown Court decided not to send Hester to prison. His lawyer, Piers Norsworthy, told the court: “He will not be involved in this sort of thing again. He is too old for this sort of behavior”.
But it wasn’t old age alone that swayed the judge’s decision. Hester had a rather heart-wrenching story that seemed to convince the judge that he had suffered enough. Noseworthy argued his client was suffering from early signs of dementia. The 74-year-old is also the sole caregiver for his 82-year-old wife and has a daughter who was grieving the recent death of her partner. It was this story that led the judge to pass a more lenient sentence for Hester who has a long history of arrests for similar activity.
Recorder Paul Garlick said he could take a “wholly exceptional course” and not impose the suspended sentence, even though Hester had committed a similar offence. He added: “You are the sole carer of your partner, you have had your own health problems and there is a family tragedy you have had to bear. “What has happened after this offence makes me certain you will never appear before these courts again.”
Hester was fined £410 for the breach of the suspended sentence with a £90 victim surcharge. He was handed a fresh eight-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, for the latest offence.
Ever the entrepreneur, Hester had previously served time in 1992 for the same offense spending eight years in prison after smuggling cannabis into the country. Now, however, the grandfather insists that he will be leaving this part of his past well behind. A promise he seems to have made before. But while Hester enjoys his time in retirement, we can’t help but wonder where those kind elderly folks will get their medicine now that their provider is gone.