Class A Northampton street dealer spared jail after judge scolds 'unacceptable' 30 month wait to bring him to court

The judge shared his frustration at how Owen McDonald's case had been left hanging over his head for over two years

Saturday, 17th April 2021, 10:00 am
A Northampton street dealer had to wait over two years on remand before he could enter a guilty plea in court.

A street dealer who sold heroin and cocaine in a Northampton neighbourhood has been spared jail after he had to wait over 30 months for his day in court.

Owen McDonald, now of Long Green in Cressing, Essex, was caught by a plains clothes officer on Hester Street in Semilong carrying over £500 of cocaine and heroin.

But a judge at Northampton Crown Court yesterday labeled it "unacceptable" after learning this offence took place in October 2018 - meaning it had taken over 30 months to reach the court.

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In fact, McDonald - who is now 23 - was only seen by a Magistrate's Court for the first time in March 2021, where he pleaded guilty.

Since the arrest, the former street dealer has reportedly committed no other offences, found a job and attends church once a week.

His Honour Judge David Herbert shared his frustration in court that the case had taken so long to be dealt with, saying: "Dealing Class A drugs is a serious offence which almost certainly results in a custodial sentence.

"But the reality is here we are 30 months later. As far as I'm aware he's [McDonald] kept out of trouble in that time and he's had to wait a very long time with this over his head. It's unacceptable.

"If I were sentencing two years ago I would have sent him to prison. But I don't think you could say that is appropriate now.

"I want the message to go back to Northamptonshire Police that they cannot have someone on remand under investigation and then leave them in the long grass. I'm unimpressed by the delay."

As a result, McDonald was handed a two-year prison sentence suspended for 21 months. Judge Herbert warned the 23-year-old as he left the dock: "Make sure you take the chance you're given."

It comes after multiple warnings nationally that courts in England were struggling with case backlogs even before the pandemic.