Footballer spared jail for second cocaine conviction

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The Independent Online

The former Scottish international footballer Frank McAvennie was spared jail yesterday after admitting possessing cocaine. Judge Hodson told him that he was taking a "wholly exceptional course" in not sending him to prison even though it was his second cocaine offence.

The former Scottish international footballer Frank McAvennie was spared jail yesterday after admitting possessing cocaine. Judge Hodson told him that he was taking a "wholly exceptional course" in not sending him to prison even though it was his second cocaine offence.

McAvennie, 40, from Low Fell, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, was given a two-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £150 costs after admitting possessing £30 of the drug. Newcastle Crown Court was told McAvennie was arrested in the city in March in connection with a £110,000 drugs conspiracy. He admitted having a "bit of personal" in his pocket.

Last month McAvennie was cleared by a jury of conspiring to supply amphetamines and ecstasy after a nine-day trial. Richard Bloomfield, his defence barrister, told Judge Hodson that the trial and McAvennie's short period of time in custody after his arrest had convinced him not to become involved in drugs again. He added that the former Celtic and West Ham striker had been offered jobs abroad coaching international teams and would accept them next year after finishing training for his coaching badge.

Judge Hodson told McAvennie that most people in his position would face a custodial sentence but he added: "It seems to me that it would be appropriate to take what is a wholly exceptional course."

After the case, McAvennie left court with his fiancée, Karen Lamberti, vowing not to become involved in drugs again. He said: "I'm delighted it's finished now and I can get back to focusing on what I do in the future. I will speak to my agent in London and see what happens.

"I think I will end up abroad as there's not a lot for me here. I will get away and get back to the only thing I can do in life, that's play football. I got involved with drugs through associations and I've distanced myself from that now."

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