A DRUG user-turned dealer was present at the scene of an illegal exchange in Appleby.

Ashley Bell, 24, was a passenger in a car seen parked outside the town’s grammar school, on the evening of October 3, 2018, by police looking out for illicit substance supply.

“They saw a 17-year-old boy get into a yellow Audi for a short period before getting out and walking away,” prosecutor Jeremy Grout-Smith told Judge Nicholas Barker at Carlisle Crown Court.

“Which to them (police), and no doubt Your Honour as well, would indicate that a drug deal had taken place.”

That boy was detained and found with three bags of class B drug MCAT, an additional quantity of which was discovered inside the Audi along with weighing scales and cash after it was stopped.

Analysis of a mobile phone attributed to Bell revealed messages linked to the advertisement of drug availability and supply, the first dating back several weeks.

The driver, another man from the Penrith area, had since been sentenced for his role in the crime, and other offences.

Bell, of Brentfield Way, Penrith, admitted being concerned in the supply of MCAT, to which he had been addicted.

The court heard he became a dealer after losing a long-term relationship and employment.

“He turned from user to supplier with inevitable consequences,” said Mark Shepherd, defending.

It emerged Bell’s home had been targeted and damaged while his mother was alone inside by a thug pursuing a drug debt.

Mr Shepherd added: “He understands and has seen the consequences brought to those completely innocent of his illegal activities.”

But there had been recent praise for Bell, a trained chef who had impressed his employer and was now a vital asset due to a colleague’s self-isolation.

After hearing positive mitigation and noting a lengthy case progression delay, Judge Barker suspended a 10-month prison term for two years.

He also imposed rehabilitation and 180 hours’ unpaid work.

“You were in this car outside Appleby Grammar School,” said the judge, “and you were dealing to young people; teenagers.

“That’s a serious matter.”