A blue-haired lackey who cut cocaine in order to pay off a drugs debt has been given a chance to prove his life is on track.

Deferring Melvin Chuaga’s sentence for six months, Judge Jason Taylor QC said: “Mercy is not a vice. If you have a future I don’t want to extinguish that unless absolutely necessary and my public duty leaves me no other option.

“Prison can sometimes be the easy option for judges. But an easy option is not always a wise one especially if it would put you back in a world you have left behind.”

Swindon Crown Court heard that police had been called to Chuaga’s flat on October 11, 2018, to check on reports of a burglary.

Officers found the tenant trying to escape through the bathroom window. A search of the flat revealed drugs paraphernalia, almost 50g of high purity cocaine and 14g of heroin. The combined street value of the drugs would have been £6,320. A small amount of MDMA, for his personal use, was also found in the flat.

Interviewed by police, he said he was working off a £1,600 drugs debt. Crack and heroin would be dropped off at his flat by another and he would break it up into street deals. Every time he worked for the dealers he reduced his own debt by £180.

He had three convictions for eight offences. None were for drug dealing, but the judge concluded it would be wrong to say the offences were not drug-related. In 2015, he meted out instant justice to a burly former boxer who had stolen his bike. The churchgoer plunged a knife into the thief’s leg outside the Milverton Court flats in Park North. He was arrested a couple of days later in the town centre and found with a sharpened screwdriver.

Emma Handslip, defending, said her client had moved away from Swindon to Bristol after falling out with his mother. They were now reconciled.

He had been working, studying at college and hoped to go on to further study. The coronavirus pandemic had put paid to his plans and he had lost his job.

At the time of the offences he had had an £80 a day cocaine habit. Since then, he had managed to get clean off his own back.

Ms Handslip raised year-and-a-half delay since the police raid on Chuaga’s flat. “He is somebody who has shown he can make changes.”

Chuaga, 25, of Northbourne Road, North Swindon, pleaded guilty to possession of heroin and crack cocaine with intent to supply and possession of MDMA.

Judge Taylor said the young man was on the cusp of turning his life around. “I’m in a real dilemma and I have not found your case an easy one. If you had been sentenced in 2018 you would have gone straight to prison.” But he said he would give Chuaga the chance to prove he had made changes in his life.

If he remains out of trouble, continues his studies and not commit further offences, he can expect a suspended sentence. Should he fail, he faces a couple of years behind bars. The case was adjourned to Wednesday, November 11.