A FATHER who turned to drug dealing to get himself and his family out of debt has escaped a prison sentence.

Thomas Watkins, aged 28, was caught by police while driving an Audi TT in Cwmbran after officers were told it was linked to cannabis trafficking.

Prosecutor Emma Harris said 64.41 grams of the drug, £145 in cash and two mobile phones were recovered from the sports car after he was stopped.

Watkins was arrested and taken to Newport Central police station where he told detectives he was selling cannabis because of his “financial situation”.

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Cardiff Crown Court heard that the defendant had no previous convictions.

Father-of-two Watkins, of The Leas, Pontnewydd, Cwmbran, admitted possessing a controlled drug of class B with intent to supply on August 15, 2018.

Susan Ferrier, mitigating, said: “This is a young man who pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and who co-operated with the police.”

Describing him as “sensible and hard-working” she told the judge, Recorder Catherine Richards, that his wife was in court to support him.

His barrister added that Watkins was a “valued employee” and that his family had gone into debt after his partner had lost her job.

She said: “He lost his way and it is clear that he is dreadfully remorseful and ashamed.”

The court heard that a pre-sentence report prepared by the Probation Service categorised Watkins as at a “low-risk of reoffending”.

Recorder Richards told him he had built a “proud reputation” but had “put all that at risk by your actions”.

She sentenced him to a 12-month community order and Watkins must carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.

He will be electronically tagged to observe a two-month curfew of between 8pm and 5am.

Watkins must also pay an £85 victim surcharge and the judge ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the cannabis.