A WIGAN man out on day release from prison was caught with almost £1 million of cannabis in his car boot.
Derek Belshaw, of Cameron Place, Worsley Hall, was only two years into an eight-year sentence for supplying cannabis when he was allowed out of prison after claiming he had secured a job in Atherton.
But police stopped the 51-year-old in a car in Childwall and found five shopping bags containing almost 100 kilos of the Class B drug plus a rucksack with half a kilo - around £50,000 - of heroin inside.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that officers spotted Belshaw in a blue Ford Focus in Queens Drive at around 5.25am on December 15 last year.
When police spoke to the driver, Richard Birtwistle, 33, he was shaking and said he was “doing a mate a favour”.
Philip Astbury, prosecuting, said Belshaw, who was in the passenger seat, also appeared nervous.
Police searched the car and found 14 vacuum-packed blocks of cannabis resin with an estimated street value of between £499,000 to £999,000.
The two men were arrested and the next day a further search of the car was carried out, when officers discovered a rucksack containing Belshaw’s personal items and heroin worth between £28,000 and £47,000.
Mr Astbury said the pair were transporting the cannabis from Liverpool to Wigan.
He said Birtwistle knew Belshaw was a drug dealer on day release, but claimed he did not know how much cannabis was in the boot or about the heroin.
Mr Astbury said Belshaw played a leading role in the drugs deal.
Belshaw and Birtwistle both admitted possession with intent to supply Class A and B drugs.
Belshaw, of Cameron Place, Wigan, has 14 previous convictions for 29 offences. He was jailed for 10 years
Edmund Haygarth, defending, said there was little mitigation for his client save for his guilty plea.
However, he said: “If he was in a leading role it’s most unlikely he would have been in the car. He wasn’t the brains behind the operation.
“He is someone who can be called upon, who foolishly will accept the call to arms.”
Birtwistle, of Bold Street, Wigan, had no previous convictions and was described as a vulnerable man.
Teresa Loftus, defending, said he was the victim of an “unprovoked and extremely violent assault” in 2010, which left him with a serious brain injury.
She said: “Following that injury the defendant’s life has fallen apart.”
Miss Loftus said Birtwistle had since been unable to work, lost his girlfriend and suffered from anxiety and depression.
Judge Clement Goldstone, QC, jailed Belshaw for 10 years, to run consecutively to his existing eight-year sentence.
Judge Goldstone jailed Birtwistle for two and a half years, adding he had “stupidly and naively” agreed to drive the car.