A MAN caught hiding heroin and crack in his underpants to protect a dealer has walked free from court after a judge heard he was working towards a business studies degree.

Thabo Thornton had 18 wraps of hard drugs on him when police raided the town centre house he was living in just under a year ago.

But after hearing the 20-year-old had turned his back on the drugs world, and was now at Swansea University, a judge imposed a suspended sentence.

Thornton had initially given a ‘laughable’ version of events, saying he had been handed the package in the seconds before officers stormed into the property.

He changed his version of events when the police looked at his phone and found it littered with pictures glorifying a culture of drugs and money.

Colin Meeke, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court how police raided a house on Newhall Street on March 22 last year.

Thornton was strip-searched and the hard drugs, worth as much as £250, were found secreted ‘under his testicles,’ Mr Meeke said.

“He was hiding them where in a general search they would not be found which indicates someone who knows more about drug dealing,” he said.

At an earlier hearing he said: “Part of the Crown’s case is Mr Thornton knew all about the drugs culture and knew exactly what was going on.

“The idea on the one occasion he was handed a package he thought possibly could be drugs and tucked them behind his testicles as the police came through the door is laughable.

“I asked for photographs from Mr Thornton's phone. These show clearly a love of what best can be described as an alternate, dishonest culture.

“One I have marked, a man holding a fan of bank notes, is the defendant. I think the man in the red sweatshirt is the defendant also, again holding a fan of bank notes.

“These are indicative of a man who is immersed in frankly the dishonest culture that surrounds drug dealing.

“The Crown accept he is not a street dealer, but a cog in the street-dealing mechanism.”

He said it was accepted that he was holding on to the wraps for the street dealer who would make the actual sales.

Thornton, of Groundwell Road, pleaded guilty to possessing drugs with intent to supply.

Chris Oswald, defending, said his client was briefly involved in the world of drug dealing, but has shown a wish to change and get away from that culture.

He said he is now working hard at university towards a degree in business, which would be severely hampered if he was jailed.

Judge Douglas Field said: “Your involvement in this was limited, but nevertheless it was facilitating the ultimate distribution of drugs to people on the streets in Swindon.

“You are only 20, your involvement with drugs and the drug world has been brief.

“I am satisfied that you have now learned your lesson and you have been concerned over the intervening months of your life being in ruins and your potential university career and business career coming to nothing.

“You have no previous convictions and you are at university undergoing a degree course. You have a future.

“I am prepared to say that the public interest does not demand you having an immediate custodial sentence.”

He imposed a 19-month jail term suspended for two years and told him to do 200 hours of unpaid work.