Drug dealer's sentence 'astonishing'

A THREE-hour prison sentence handed to a dealer who supplied heroin to a 36-year-old man who subsequently died has been branded “absolutely astonishing” by experts.

A THREE-hour prison sentence handed to a dealer who supplied heroin to a 36-year-old man who subsequently died has been branded “absolutely astonishing” by experts.

David Byrne, of Tayfen Road in Bury St Edmunds, was ordered to remain in police cells until the court rose by magistrates sitting in Sudbury.

It is believed the 37-year-old then served less than three hours in the cells after pleading guilty to supplying heroin - a class A drug - to Kevin Wheeler, who later died.

Suffolk's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has now aired “concern” at the punishment, and is considering further action - which could include a judicial review.


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And speaking yesterday, Chip Somers, project manager of drug and alcohol counselling service Focus, which is based in Bury, also expressed surprise at the court's ruling last Wednesday .

He said: “The entire staff team at Focus were absolutely astonished at the sentence. It gives a very mixed message that someone who has admitted dealing drugs, a by-product of which was a fatality, receives just hours in a prison cell.

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“I would be surprised if other people found guilty of supplying drugs were given a similar sentence anywhere in the UK. I do not think it was an appropriate sentence.

“However, there are always circumstances to be taken into consideration. I think it is important that people who are engaged in every day drug-dependent behaviour are not penalised in the same way as those involved for monetary gain.”

Mr Wheeler, who lived at Ingham, near Bury St Edmunds, was found slumped outside the Quaker Meeting House in the town's St John's Street, on Thursday, 25 March.

He was reported to have had a syringe in his hand. Ambulance crews tried desperately to resuscitate him, but with no success.

Speaking yesterday, a spokesman for Suffolk's CPS did not rule out the possibility of taking further steps as a result of the sentence.

“We are aware of this case and concerned by the result,” she said. “We are currently carrying out a full review of the circumstances to see if any further action, including a judicial review, is possible.”

A spokesman for Suffolk police added: “The police are responsible for the investigation of crime and, where applicable, arresting and charging people and bringing them before the courts.

“The court must then decide on whether someone is guilty or innocent, and give a sentence.”

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