A man who smuggled cocaine into prison has narrowly avoided going back to Maghaberry.
Imposing an 18-month jail sentence on John Moorhead at Craigavon Crown Court, Judge Patrick Lynch QC told the 44-year-old it was with "considerable hesitation" he was suspending that sentence for three years.
He said he was taking the exceptional step due to Moorhead's guilty pleas, efforts at rehabilitating himself and the "excessive delays" in bringing the case to a conclusion - but warned him that "you know what will happen" if he reoffends.
At an earlier hearing Moorhead, from Portlee Walk in Antrim, had entered guilty pleas to conveying 11gms of cocaine into Maghaberry prison and possessing the class A drug with intent to supply on August 28 2018.
Yesterday, prosecuting lawyer Joseph Murphy outlined how Moorhead was on remand for a similar offence when he was granted compassionate bail to attend a funeral.
When he returned to the maximum security prison, staff suspected that he might have drugs so he was placed into a dry cell said the lawyer. He said it was when guards were about to conduct a "full body search" that Moorhead confessed that he had secreted drugs on his person.
"He was allowed some privacy and when officers returned he handed them two packets of cocaine," said Mr Murphy who told the court they amounted to a total of 10.94 grams.
During interviews Moorhead said he had been "approached by criminals" and told to smuggle the drugs into prison.
Mr Murphy said it was an aggravating factor that Moorhead was on bail for possessing cocaine with intent to supply at the time of the offence. He said that offence related to him having 2.2kgs of cocaine in his car and home.
Solicitor advocate Ciaran Shiels said Moorhead is still on licence for that offence but since his release in July last year, he had not breached any conditions, there were no pending cases and he had been doing his best to "get his life back on track".
Sentencing Moorhead, Judge Lynch said the case is "exacerbated by the aggravating factor" that he was on remand for a drug offence when he smuggled the cocaine into prison. He added that he had "positive reports" before him so "on the basis that you will not be back here before the court and that your attempts at rehabilitation are sincere," he was suspending the jail sentence.