A 60-year-old man who swallowed a golf ball-sized package of heroin when confronted by police on a Belfast street has avoided prison.
Joseph Corner was given a four-month suspended sentence for possession of the Class A drugs he tried to conceal.
Belfast Magistrates' Court heard he had to be kept in custody for three days until he finally passed the consignment.
Corner, of Bunkers Hill in Castlewellan, Co Down, was in the back of a Nissan Juke car parked at Botanic Avenue on October 20 last year.
Prosecutors said police patrolling in the area spotted someone outside passing something to a known drug user sitting in a front seat.
When officers opened the door they saw Corner put an object in his mouth.
"It was the size of a golf ball, wrapped in plastic," a Crown lawyer said.
Despite being asked to spit it out, Corner continued to chew on the package.
He was taken out of the vehicle, but managed to swallow the item amid attempts to recover it from his mouth.
Defence counsel Conor O'Kane argued that only a small amount of heroin was contained in the wrapping.
"It took three days to pass through his system, and he was in custody for that whole period," the barrister disclosed.
He said Corner had suffered a relapse in his nine-year battle against drug problems, but insisted the defendant only had the illicit package for personal use.
"He simply fell into bad company," the barrister added.
Imposing the four-month jail term, suspended for two years, District Judge Liam McNally told Corner: "This was heroin you tried to dispose of. In fact, you did dispose of it when you knew police were trying to retrieve it."