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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A British milkman who admitted he delivered cannabis as well as pints of milk to elderly customers to ease their aches and pains, was spared jail on Friday.
Robert Holding, 72, from Burnley, told police he supplied the drug to 17 customers after detectives raided his home and found nearly 6oz (167g) of cannabis in an egg crate in the van he used for deliveries.
"He said he sold the cannabis to existing customers because they were old and had aches and pains," said prosecutor Sarah Statham.
"He said he sold a 9oz (255g) bar about every three weeks and sold it for a relatively cheap value. He said that customers left him notes saying, for example, 'Can I have an ounce this week or can I have an eighth.'"
Holding, who admitted supplying and possession of the drug at a previous hearing, was given a 36-month prison sentence suspended for a year at Burnley Crown Court on Friday, the Press Association reported.
Judge Beverley Lunt told him the sentence was "an act of mercy" because he visited his wife, who has Alzheimer's disease, every day in a care home.
"You were not some philanthropist helping out the elderly out of the good of your heart. You dealt drugs for profit in a calculated way. It was a business," the judge told him.
His lawyer Philip Holden said his client "wasn't making much of a profit" and that his oldest client was 92.
"Word had got out that he was a man who could supply cannabis to those of a certain age with aches and pains and he misguidedly believed he was providing a public service," he said.
After the verdict Holding insisted he had not made money from his drug dealing.
"They (the customers) enjoyed it, they saved a lot of money while I was doing it and I only did it for a short time," he said.
However Neil Standage, area crown prosecutor for East Lancashire, said there was no evidence that he was only supplying elderly people with painful ailments.
"This might make it sound like what he was doing was harmless. It wasn't," he said.
Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Paul Casciato