A TEENAGE drug dealer was a devoted father and a promising footballer before he started selling heroin and crack cocaine in Hereford in a case branded 'sad' by the judge who jailed him.

County lines "salesmen and couriers" Jamani Mcooty – caught with a knife for the fifth time – and Lekarri Moses were both at Bishops Meadow dealing the class A drugs.

Both defendants were detained by Judge Nicolas Cartwight last week, who overruled pleas by their advocates to suspend the prison sentence.

Mcooty, now aged 19, of Brittan Close, Shard End, Birmingham, was detained for 53 months, while his co-defendant, Moses, now 20, of Livingstone Road, Handsworth, Birmingham, was detained for 28 months when they appeared at Worcester Crown Court.

Both had admitted possession of heroin and crack cocaine with intent to supply after they were stopped in the town on September 4, 2019, only entering their guilty pleas on what would have been the day of trial in February.

In total the two-man team had 35 wraps of class A drugs and £310 in cash – the proceeds of 31 deals they had already made, each worth £10.

Mcooty alone pleaded guilty to possession of a knife in public – the fifth time he has been caught with a blade in such circumstances.

However, in a cautionary tale we can now reveal that one of the defendants - Moses - is a promising footballer and devoted dad before he was sucked into the world of dealing.

He started smoking cannabis after the death of his childhood friend, working up a debt which those higher up the chain called in.

Moses, who comes from 'a deprived area of Birmingham', was described as being 'in a very different position' to his co-defendant Mccooty. "He's a young man who has never been in trouble with the police before," said Gulam Ahmed, defending.

He described a 'powerful incident that occurred when his childhood friend was killed which led him to start smoking cannabis and led him eventually into offending'.

"He has now broken free of that" said Mr Ahmed. Moses had achieved GCSEs and engaged in voluntary work and was also now in full time work.

He added: "He doesn't sit idle - he's a promising young footballer. He's a devoted father. He's not in a relationship with the child's mother but nevertheless takes his responsibilities in parenting very seriously and spends a lot of time with his young daughter."

He went on to argue that there were 'no aggravating features' but there were mitigating features, including his client's lack of previous convictions, calling the dealing an 'isolated incident'.

Michael Anning, defending Mcooty, acknowledged that the offences crossed the custody threshold but asked that the sentence be suspended, his client having pleaded guilty to all offences.

He argued that his client had not played a significant role, telling the judge: "It has all the hallmarks of being a lesser role."

He had only been 18 at the time of the offence, and had been involved in drugs as a 'user' with limited financial advantage, being paid in drugs to transport them to Hereford.

Mr Anning said his client was performing a limited function under direction and that he had become involved 'through naivety, immaturity or exploitation'.

He also referred to 'considerable delay in the case'. His client had now secured work which involved regular drugs tests. "He has been the main financial provider for his family, that being his mother and his brother. He's now debt-free," said Mr Anning.

Mcooty had also had a partner for the last 15 months which had 'helped him to transform his life' .

Judge Nicolas Cartwright said: "This is another sad case in which young men with a real potential in life get themselves involved in county lines drug dealing, thinking they weren't going to get caught then ending up before a crown court judge to be sentenced for it."