A DRIVER handed over a bag of heroin when he was stopped for a driving offence, a court heard.

Police spotted Philip Sugden's green Vauxhall Astra speeding across a junction in Stockton in September last year.

Teesside Crown Court heard today (Friday, April 4) how officers noted that Sugden was not wearing his seatbelt and there was a of smell cannabis.

As they began to search the vehicle, Sugden, 29, of Yarm Lane, Stockton, produced a bag of brown powder from his pocket.

He told officers “you know what it is”.

Tests later showed the powder was 27.4g of heroin worth around £1,370.

A search of the defendant's home revealed 36 cut-off corners of clear plastic bags, which were later found to contain small quantities of the drug.

A number of mobile phones were also found.

Peter Wishlade, mitigating, said his client had been “warehousing” the drugs to raise money to pay an associate who he refused to name.

“He was in business with a partner essentially breaking cars.

“The money wasn't coming through as speedily as his partner wanted. He wanted £5,400 and threats were issued.”

Mr Wishlade said Sugden's flat was smashed up and police found evidence of the threats on the defendant's mobile phones.

The lawyer said his client had a job and was a carer for his grandmother.

He added: “He was not living the life of a dealer but he is going to receive the penalty of a dealer.”

Sugden pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to possessing class A drugs with intent to supply.

Jailing him for three years, Judge Howard Crowson said he believed the defendant had played a “significant role” in street level drug dealing.

However, he added: “I does seem to me that you acted out of a degree of anxiety.”

The judge said that although Sugden had admitted drug dealing to the police, he would have got more credit and a lower sentence if he had pleaded guilty at an earlier court session than the plea and case management hearing.