A DRUG dealer who was caught with over £7,000 hidden in his underpants has avoided an immediate prison sentence.

David Hirons was a passenger in a vehicle stopped on the A34 on December 23, 2019, and police instantly smelt cannabis.

Hirons and the driver admitted to using the drug.

Winchester Crown Court heard  that cannabis and another drug was found in the side pocket of the vehicle – each weighed about a gram.

Officers carried out a search of Hirons and £7,145 was found hidden in his underpants, which was understood to be used “for a payment for a reload of drugs”.

Two phones were also discovered, first was a Nokia ‘burner phone’, but the 27-year-old had carried out “good housekeeping”, according to a drugs expert, as he had deleted previous messages.

However, some remained which were consistent with the dealing of cocaine.

The second phone was a Samsung smart phone which was “seen to fall from the defendant’s lap” and a vast amount of data was recovered which showed “requests to be supplied with drugs”.

The court heard that the messages recovered spanned eight months and were “significant as hardly any drugs were recovered” during the police stop.

Robin Shellard, prosecuting, also said that tins of cannabis and paraphernalia were found in the vehicle as well.

In mitigation, Rina-Marie Hill told the court that Hirons was “someone who collected drugs from someone higher than him in a chain, he sold them to a customer base that was well established before he became involved. He then gave the proceeds to those higher in the chain”.

Hirons, of Middleton Stoney, Oxford, became a drug user “upon leaving a controlling and destructive relationship” and was persuaded by others to sell drugs to “fund his own habit and for financial gain”.

Ms Hill said: “He is remorseful, in my submission, there is some evidence in his behaviour since being arrested that he has truly begun the process in reflecting on his actions and the decision making and the harm he could have caused.”

Hirons is now in stable employment as a warehouse operative and has been seeking help for his drug addiction.

He previously pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine and cannabis, being concerned in the supply of cocaine and cannabis, and possession of criminal property. The court charges say that the offences took place at Stockbridge.

Mr Recorder Newton-Price QC handed Hirons a two-year prison sentence suspended for 18 months, he must also complete 180 hours unpaid work and 10 rehabilitation days.