A DRUG dealer from Ellesmere Port who splashed out £50k on Rolex watches from his ill-gotten gains has been spared an immediate prison sentence.

Chester Crown Court heard on Friday, April 30 that Robert Dennis Parsonage, 31, of Rostherne Avenue, Great Sutton, had benefitted from his cannabis dealing operation to the tune of more than £60k overall.

But the court also heard that, since Parsonage's offending stopped in July 2018, he had turned his life around and had shown a "determination" to address his offending.

Honorary Recorder of Chester Judge Steven Everett therefore suspended the two-year prison term, acknowledging what he called an "unacceptable" near-three-year gap between Parsonage stopping his criminal activity and being sentenced.

He told the defendant: "Two years ago, I would have sent you down."

Prosecuting, Anna Pope said police had raided Parsonage's home and arrested him. Although no drugs were found, there were two mobiles – an iPhone and a Samsung – which contained Whatsapp messages relating to drug dealing, plus evidence on how to hide illegal proceeds of his business.

There were also photos of sealed packets of cannabis and large quantities of cash, one of which was 16 lots of £1,000 bundles.

Also on the phone was a search for 'how much cash can you put in a bank?'

There was evidence of an "extravagant lifestyle", with designer clothing purchases and, notably, Rolex watches including ones for £27,900 and £20,750.

In total, about £50,000 had been spent on watches, about £5,000 on holidays, plus £30,000 on the purchase of a home under the Right to Buy scheme – although it was accepted by the court this last purchase fell outside the indictment period.

The purchases were "inconsistent" with Parsonage's income from being a delivery driver.

He made no comment in his first police interview and in the second, gave a prepared statement confirming the purchase of one of the watches.

Ms Pope said Parsonage had a "significant financial advantage" from the drugs operation and money laundering of £60,121.86.

He had a previous conviction for a motoring matter.

Defending, Claire Brocklebank said a pre-sentence report had shown Parsonage had turned his life around in the past three years.

The drug-dealing operation was "not particularly sophisticated" – as soon as police found bank statements at the address, "that was it", the court heard.

Since the arrest, Parsonage had given up taking cannabis himself, had shown remorse and was in full-time employment and was a "hard-working individual", with what Judge Everett called "a perfectly decent and productive job."

Sentencing, Judge Everett said: "This was not just making a few thousand pounds, you made about £60,000. In any case that is a substantial amount of money."

The judge added there was "substantial mitigation" – Parsonage's lack of relevant prior convictions, his aim of working hard to do right by his family, he had been assessed as a low risk of reoffending and there was a "determination" to address his offending.

"Most important," Judge Everett added, "is the delay – it's such that these offences took place nearly three years ago, and you pleaded guilty a long time ago."

Parsonage had been waiting for the outcome of the trial of a co-accused, who had been acquitted.

Parsonage was sentenced to two years, suspended for two years, and must complete 30 days of a rehabilitation activity requirement.

He must also do 200 hours unpaid work.

"In my judgment you are by no means a lost cause," Judge Everett added.

A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing will take place on July 26 to assess how much Parsonage will have to repay, which the judge warned the defendant "may be an expensive case" for him.

  • Parsonage had previously pleaded not guilty to being concerned in the supply of cocaine. The prosecution did not proceed with this charge and Judge Everett said the case would lie on file.