Burneside cannabis dealer’s sentencing delayed

A BURNESIDE cannabis dealer must wait to learn his fate because of a dispute over the severity of his crime.

Callum McKenzie, 25, of Hall Park, appeared before South Cumbria magistrates last month and admitted supplying the class B substance between late May, 2020, and mid-March, 2021.

McKenzie’s case was committed to Carlisle Crown Court by magistrates who concluded their sentencing powers were insufficient. He appeared there on Friday (today) in front of a city judge who heard he was keen to know his fate.

But the conclusion of his case hit a snag.

Beccy McGregor, prosecuting, said McKenzie, during a recent interview with a probation officer, stated he had tried to pay off a £2,000 drug debt by dealing to a “small group of friends over an eight or nine-month period”.

But she alleged that some evidence in the case was “suggestive of dealing beyond paying off a £2,000 drug debt”.

Judge Nicholas Barker ruled that because the prosecution took issue with McKenzie’s account, an extra court hearing would be needed to resolve the matter before he could be sentenced.

Evidence will be called at that hearing and McKenzie has an opportunity to give evidence before a judge makes a ruling and sentences accordingly.

As Judge Barker adjourned the case, he summarised the key issue to McKenzie, who had listened from the dock as submissions were made. “On the one hand, you say you got yourself into debt because you had been smoking a lot of cannabis, and because of that debt you were forced to start selling cannabis to people you know just so you could pay off the debt,” said Judge Barker.

“On the other hand, the prosecution, who don’t accept that account, say ‘well, no, you were running a commercial operation and maybe had some debt but that’s not what you were doing; you were maximising profits, running a commercial operation and weren’t particularly bothered who you were selling to: you were only there to make money’.

“That makes a difference to the sentence. There is a difference between culpability and harm.”

McKenzie’s “trial of issue” hearing is due to take place on January 24. He remains on unconditional bail in the meantime.

The Westmorland Gazette | News