Milkman who delivered cannabis on his round spared jail 'as act of mercy'

By Lucy Collins
Saturday 07 February 2009 01:00

An elderly milkman who said he supplied cannabis to his customers only to ease their aches and pains walked free from court yesterday.

Robert Holding, 72, received a suspended prison sentence at Burnley Crown Court for the supply and possession of the drug. Judge Beverley Lunt told him the sentence was "an act of mercy" in light of his wife'sillness. The court heard that his wife has Alzheimer's disease and recently moved into a care home, where hevisits her every day.

Holding, of Burnley, Lancashire, admitted at an earlier hearing supplying cannabis resin between April and July 2008, and possessing cannabis with intent to supply. Sarah Statham, for the prosection, told the court that police got wind of his activities and raided his property when his wife and daughter were at home. During the raid Holding arrived home in the van he used for his milk round and officers discovered nearly 6oz (167g) of cannabis split into 15 separate packets in an egg crate.

She said the cannabis had an estimated street value of £450. Holding had told police that "he sold the cannabis to existing customers because they were old and had aches and pains ... He said customers left him notes saying, for example, 'Can I have an ounce this week'."

Philip Holden, for the defence, said in mitigation that his client became tearful at the thought of being sent to prison and not being able to see his wife.

"He is very fearful that her mental health will deteriorate further if he's unable to see her on a daily basis."

Mr Holden said the milkman's oldest client was 92: "Word had got out that he was a man who could supply cannabis to those of a certain age with aches and pains, and he misguidedly believed he was providing a public service." However, Judge Lunt concluded: "You were not some philanthropist helping out the elderly out of the good of your heart. You dealt drugs for profit in a calculated way. It was a business." Holding received a 36-week suspended sentence for each count, and a one-year supervision order.

Speaking outside court, he said he regretted his actions. He added: "I didn't make a profit; they said I did, but I didn't. One old woman, all she'd got was a little piece and she used to make it last all week."