Ilfracombe landlord became a drug dealer after lockdown ruined his business

Exeter Crown Court

Exeter Crown Court. - Credit: Archant

A pub landlord whose business was ruined by lockdown was caught with 403 ecstasy tablets after he turned to drug dealing to support his family.

Connor Barnard ran the popular Bunch of Grapes in Ilfracombe High Street but ended up bankrupt after it was closed down in March last year.  

Police caught him with a stash of tablets, a knife, bags and scales when they spotted him acting suspiciously on the resort’s quayside three months later.

He also had £1,600 cash which he admitted was mostly the profits from selling ecstasy tablets, which are also known as MDMA.

Barnard, aged 28, of Queens Avenue, Ilfracombe, admitted possession of class A MDMA with intent to supply and was jailed for two years, suspended for two years with 120 hours unpaid community work by Recorder Mr Tom Brown at Exeter Crown Court.

He told him: “I am satisfied you got into this situation because of financial difficulties which arose from the temporary closure of the pub which you ran.

“I accept it was not characteristic behaviour and that you are somebody of good character and a responsible person who has otherwise worked hard and who has children who you care for.”

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Mr Ryan Murray, prosecuting, said police became suspicious of activity around a car on Ilfracombe Quay at 1.50 pm on July 4, 2020 and stopped Barnard nearby.

He had a bag containing 403 yellow triangular MDMA tablets, a black glove with powder on it, a knife, scales, and resealable plastic bags.

He told the police: “That’s fair enough. I was really stupid; I was really sorry.” He had £1,600 of cash of which £1,000 were takings from previous sales.

He said he had got into dealing during lockdown after having lost his business running the pub.

Mr Nick Lewin, defending, said: “He made a mistake. He is genuinely and generally a hard-working young man and he was seeking to provide for his family.

“He committed this offence because of financial debt due to the failure of the pub. He now knows it was absolutely not the right way to go about it and has declared himself bankrupt.”

Mr Lewin said Barnard looks after his children for half the week and has just started his own new business.

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