Teenage drug dealer carrying knuckleduster spared jail

Northgate Street in Bury St Edmunds

Police were called to an incident in Northgate Street in September 2019 - Credit: Google

An Ipswich teenager has avoided going to jail for dealing drugs and carrying a knuckleduster.

Dylan Zdrenka received a suspended sentence at Ipswich Crown Court on Monday for carrying an offensive weapon in public and possession with intent to supply class A drugs.

The 18-year-old had pleaded guilty to the offences at an earlier hearing before magistrates in December.

Police were called to reports of a fight in Northgate Street, Bury St Edmunds, at about 11.20pm on September 27, 2019.

A witness reported hearing threats of violence, with all the hallmarks of a confrontation over drugs, before seeing a man armed with a kitchen knife, poised between two parked cars.

As officers arrived, a group of about four males attempted to run, but Zdrenka was caught up with and detained in possession of a knuckleduster.

A 'route search' the following day uncovered 19 wraps of heroin and 30 wraps of crack cocaine, worth a total of £490, behind a bin in nearby Etna Road.

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DNA on cling film wrapping was later matched to Zdrenka, whose seized iPhone contained a month of messages relating to the supply of drugs.

The court heard Zdrenka had previous convictions for possession of cannabis and cocaine in May 2019, possession with intent to supply cocaine and ecstasy in October 2019, and possession of ecstasy and cannabis in September 2020.

Declan Gallagher, mitigating, said Zdrenka had been jumped at knifepoint while acting as a junior drug runner to work off a cocaine debt of his own.

He said Zdrenka had been effectively fending for himself from the age of 15, but had recently moved into supported accommodation in Ipswich and was taking part in a study programme to achieve GCSEs. 

"Quite clearly, he hasn't had a choice to grow up, but has been thrown into situations with which he was ill-equipped to deal, and when he did, he dealt with them very badly," added Mr Gallagher.

Recorder Heather Rogers QC said it was important to consider the offences in the context of a pattern, while taking into account Zdrenka's young age and complete absence of stability at the time.

She said it was appropriate to suspend a 20-month sentence for two years, with 200 hours' unpaid work, but warned Zdrenka: "Be in no doubt, this won't happen again."