Carl Ritchie, 34, was arrested behind the wheel of his car after police officers followed drug addicts to a suspected deal in Bicester town centre last September.

In the vehicle were three mobile phones, plastic ‘deal bags’ containing white powder and a sheathed axe.

Prosecuting, Bethan Chichester told Oxford Crown Court on Thursday (September 14) that officers then went to search Richie’s home.

Inside were ?10,000-worth of designer clothing, including a Rolex watch, and a large amount of ‘deal bags’.

In total, ?8,153 of cash was found and, later, forfeited to the police by an order of the judge.

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The mobile phones were examined and found to contain messages consistent with Ritchie dealing cocaine direct to users on the street.

Ritchie, of West View, Somerton, pleaded guilty at the magistrates’ court to possession with intent to supply cocaine on September 28 last year.

He had two previous convictions, albeit for dissimilar offences.

Mitigating, Mohammed Latif said his client had been dealing a drug to which he was addicted himself, having developed a cocaine habit after first using cannabis.

He ‘should have known better’ than to allow himself to get involved in dealing drugs, Mr Latif acknowledged. The defendant had been careful not to name those supplying him.

Ritchie was supported by more than a dozen character references that spoke of his positive qualities, including the support he provided to his partner and the good work he did in the community.

Sentencing, Judge Ian Pringle KC reduced the prison sentence from a starting point for four-and-a-half years to 27 months, taking account of the defendant’s early guilty plea and his mitigation.

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But he said: “You will know and indeed everyone in this court will know that one of the greatest scourges on our society is drugs and class A drugs in particular.

“They have a devastating effect on our communities and every day that I sit here, certainly, I consider some cases involving drugs.

“Those who supply drugs will expect to receive severe sentences, particularly if supplying class A drugs.

“That is why the sentencing guidelines are as high as they are.”

The judge acknowledged the large number of character references that had been provided to the court.

“Please don’t forget those friends and family. So many of them who stand by you, they will stand by you through your sentence and will help you when you are released,” Judge Pringle said.

 Cocaine dealer Carl Ritchie, from near Bicester, also had a Rolex watch, Oxford Crown Court heard.