WHEN Ministry of Defence police officers searched the home of a disgraced ex-soldier looking for ammunition he had kept, they discovered evidence of drugs at the address.
So they tipped off the West Midlands force who discovered £6,000 worth of cocaine in a safe hidden under the floorboards of Michael Barnett’s Coventry home.
Despite the haul, Barnett initially pleaded not guilty to possessing the drug with intent to supply it, but changed his plea to guilty on the day of his trial at Warwick Crown Court.
He entered his plea on the basis that he was a habitual heavy user of cocaine, which Judge Anthony Potter observed was supported by the damage to Barnett’s nose.
The basis of plea continued that he would buy it in bulk and prepare it himself for his own use – but would share some with close friends on a non-commercial basis.
Barnett (36) of Buliver Road, Radford, Coventry, was sentenced to two years in prison suspended for two years and was ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work and to pay £700 costs.
Prosecutor Rebecca Wade said: “It is an unusual situation because the drugs were found by MoD officers who were looking for something else.”
She explained that Barnett had been ‘a member of the military’ for three-and-a-half years until he had tested positive for cocaine and had been discharged.
In November 2016 the military police obtained a warrant to search Barnett’s home for ammunition it was believed he had retained on being discharged.
That was found and seized, but no further action was taken against him over it.
But during the search, those officers had also come across a hiding-place under the floorboards where they found scales, a number of small bags and a locked small safe.
So they informed West Midlands Police who carried out a further search with the aid of a sniffer dog which showed an interest in the safe, and it was removed.
On being opened by a locksmith, the police found a total of 60 grams of cocaine and 295 grams of benzocaine, which is commonly used to ‘cut’ the drug to a street-level purity.
When he was interviewed, Barnett accepted the drugs were his, and said he had a significant cocaine habit, so would buy a purer form of cocaine in bulk and then prepare it himself, using the benzocaine, for his own use.
The court heard it was accepted that, if bought in bulk, the cocaine would have cost far less that its estimated value in street deals.
Chloe Ashley, defending, said that since his arrest Barnett had tackled his addiction and gained employment, and he had been assessed as suitable for unpaid work.
Before sentencing Barnett, Judge Potter said he accepted he had made ‘considerable efforts to make good.’