A COUNTY-LINES drug dealer has avoided extra time in jail after he was sentenced just 11 days before his 18th birthday.

The 17-year-old, who we cannot name for another 11 days for legal reasons, was sentenced as a juvenile rather than as an adult at Reading Crown Court this afternoon.

The teenager, from Slough, was a victim of modern slavery when he was just 14-years-old and forced to run drugs.

But the youngster now finds himself behind bars after setting up his own drugs line aged 16 after he forced vulnerable drug addicts to let him use their houses to ‘wash cocaine’.

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However, his prison term is shorter than it would have been if he was sentenced just 11 days later as juveniles and adults have different sentencing guidelines.

William Eaglestone, prosecuting, said the man exploited vulnerable drug dealers in order to assist his operations.

One woman who gave evidence against the dealer said he would use her home to ‘wash cocaine’ -- meaning to make crack cocaine.

She said: “I have stood up to him a number of times. I have locked my door but he smashes it in.

“Every time he is on the phone he is talking about drugs or money.”

Another victim said: “He doesn’t seem to care that he is dealing drugs and he does so openly.”

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Rishy Panesar, defending, said: “Though there are vulnerable users and dealers in this case, he is still vulnerable himself.

“He is lacking in emotional maturity.”

Sentencing, His Honour Judge Burgess explained the defendant’s sentence to him.

He said: “You are 17 and in just over 10 days you are going to turn 18.

“I understand you were exploited and others took advantage of you when you were 14.

“People that have looked at your case going that far back know you yourself were a victim of modern slavery.

“But you have pleaded guilty to two very serious offences of supplying crack cocaine and heroine.

“You were running a country line. The prosecution say you were playing a leading role. You were high up in that operation and you were basically running the line for yourself and were doing it to make a lot of money.

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“If you were an adult the sentence would be 8.5 years in prison with a range of 6.5 to ten years.

“8.5 years is a starting point but there are things that make the case more serious.

“The fact you were exploiting other people who were vulnerable just like people had taken advantage of you when you were vulnerable.

“You were selling drugs on a big scale to make a lot of money from it.”

Judge Burgess told the court there were “a number of things to bring the sentence back down”, however.

He noted how the man was ‘young for his age’, had special educational needs and was somebody who would be at risk of self-harm in a custodial setting.

“It is not so much about punishment as much as it is about your rehabilitation”, the judge added.

He said the points in his favour brought the sentence down to seven years, and there would be a further one-third reduction given the man’s juvenile age.

With a guilty plea also taken into account, the sentence was brought down further to 50 months imprisonment.

The Slough man will serve half of this behind bars before being released from jail.

Addressing the defendant, who appeared via video link from Feltham, Judge Burgess said: “I hope you will be able to put all of this behind you.

“I don’t think it is going to be easy for you.”

The man was sentenced at Reading Crown Court on Thursday, January 13.