A FARMER got away with using hard drugs for a quarter of a century because he lived in such an out-of-the-way place in the hills near Grange-over-Sands, a court has heard.

Jonathan Twigge’s family and friends knew that he regularly used cocaine and other drugs, but they turned a blind eye, thinking it was not doing him any harm.

The 54-year-old – described at Carlisle Crown Court as “a salt-of-the-earth character” – has appeared in court twice in recent years for minor drugs offences.

But it was only this week that he came close to being sent to prison – after police found nearly £4,000-worth of ecstasy and cocaine in a plastic tub hidden under a rock near the land he owns in Back of the Fell Road, Lindale.

Twigge pleaded guilty yesterday to possessing the two class A drugs with intent to supply them But he did so only on the basis that he was looking after them for a friend – a drug dealer who had been so “spooked” by a mystery car he had seen in the vicinity that he had not dared to take them away after a drug-taking session in Twigge’s caravan.

He would have returned the drugs to the dealer sometime in the future, he said, and would not have expected any reward for doing so.

The court heard the prosecution were “happy” to accept Twigge’s explanation after the police investigated it and found it was true.

Prosecuting counsel Greg Hoare said the drugs were found after “quite a large team of police officers, drug dogs and the like” descended on the “rural backwater” where Twigge lived on May 3 last year.

They were found hidden about 80 yards from the farm buildings, just outside the boundary of Twigge’s own property.

In mitigation Twigge’s defence barrister told the court: “For the past 25 years Mr Twigge has been a user of class A drugs but in every other aspect of his life he is a hard-working farmer, a devoted father and grandfather and a helpful member of his community. He very much epitomises the phrase ‘salt of the earth’.”

He said Twigge was part of a “small sub division of the drug-taking community who take drugs behind closed doors and away from the public eye.”

But he said he was now trying to give up drugs with the help of specialist counselling.

Twigge was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, and put under probation supervision for 12 months.

Judge Barbara Forrester told him: “I suspect being locked up in prison would be very difficult for a man who spends most of his life in the fresh air with his animals.”