Antrim man Arron Wilkinson avoids jail for selling drug to pals who later collapsed
A man who sold what he thought was cocaine to three friends who then became violently ill and collapsed was handed a combination order yesterday.
Ordering 34-year-old Arron Wilkinson to complete 18 months on probation along with 75 hours of community service, Antrim Crown Court Judge Desmond Marrinan recounted how "the nightmare began" when his friends took the drug.
"They immediately became violently ill, collapsed in the street and required paramedic attention," said the judge, adding that "fortunately for them, and for you, they have made a full recovery".
At an earlier hearing Wilkinson, a stay-at-home father-of-two from Redford Road in Cullybackey, pleaded guilty to attempting to supply cocaine and supply of a psychoactive substance on December 10, 2016.
Prosecuting counsel Michael Chambers told the court Wilkinson and the other men involved were on separate football trips to Belfast, but were known to each other.
The court heard Wilkinson had bought what he believed to be cocaine and intended to take it himself, until his wife called asking him not to be home too late.
Mr Chambers said Wilkinson sold the drug to the four men, three of whom ingested it but they "almost immediately became extremely ill".
"They're extremely fortunate that the fourth friend did not take the drug as he was able to summon help," said the lawyer, adding that the three stricken friends were taken to hospital.
Tests and blood samples showed that while all involved believed the drug was cocaine, it was in fact a psychoactive drug, "a synthetic opioid with a long chemical name".
"It would have been called a legal high before it was made illegal," Mr Chambers told the court.
Defence barrister Stephen Law reminded Judge Marrinan he had deferred passing sentence six months ago to see how Wilkinson behaved, adding that he was "happy to report" he had not come to police attention.
Imposing the combination order, the judge said that as Wilkinson not only looked after his two children, but was also the registered carer for other family members, a prison sentence "would have a devastating effect" on not just him, but those close to him as well.
"What happened on this night must strike you as something of a nightmare... I believe that this event is very much out of character for you," Judge Marrinan told Wilkinson.