Drug user escapes jail sentence

PUBLISHED: 10:51 17 January 2008 | UPDATED: 10:01 04 May 2010

Patrick O Donnell was crying in the dock of Ely courthouse as he admitted breaching his suspended jail sentence for a second time, by missing two appointments with the probation service. Back in November when he admitted an earlier breach, he was told tha

Patrick O'Donnell was crying in the dock of Ely courthouse as he admitted breaching his suspended jail sentence for a second time, by missing two appointments with the probation service.

Back in November when he admitted an earlier breach, he was told that was his last chance to keep out of prison.

On Thursday the 26-year-old could have been sent into custody, but Ely magistrates decided it would be unjust to activate his four month sentence for several reasons.

They agreed that O'Donnell missed one appointment by mistake; that he had made a positive response to his suspended sentence order, by sorting out his accommodation and getting a job; and that he had been dealing with his drug problem by working with his doctor.

O'Donnell, 26, of Prickwillow Road, Ely, was given the four-month suspended jail sentence a year ago, after admitting that he supplied £10 worth of heroin to an undercover police officer.

The jail sentence was suspended for 18 months, and he was ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work.

Mitigating, Michael Judkins said O'Donnell had not offended since he was sentenced, and had made significant progress.

He had a prescription for the heroin substitute methadone, and has not been out drinking.

O'Donnell forgot an appointment with the probation service on November 15, explained Mr Judkins, and on December 11 he wrongly thought he was not required to attend.

"He missed both appointments inadvertently and not on purpose," he said, "it would be unjust to activate the jail sentence."

The court extended O'Donnell's suspended sentence by an extra six months, and extended his supervision for a further six months.

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