A JUDGE gave a man battling a near two decade cocaine addiction a final chance to prove he can kick the habit.

Gavin Hughes, 45, was caught dealing the class A drug in Colchester in May.

Police found eight wraps on cocaine on him, two mobile phones, a customer list and £1,000 in cash.

He admitted possession with intent to supply cocaine and possession of criminal property on the basis that he was pushing the drugs in order to pay off his own substantial drug debts.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard he had been a cocaine user since the age of 28 but was working to turn his life around and had found steady work as a painter and decorator during the last few months.

Judge Patricia Lynch QC said she was taking an exceptional course in suspending Hughes’ two year jail term for two years.

She also ordered him to complete a nine month drug rehabilitation programme and 25 rehabilitation days.

“It is quite shocking for someone of your age to come before me for this,” she said.

“You should have got it together by now.

“With drug dealing, it is not just one victim but hundreds and thousands of victims who get into misery.

“You know full well it puts you literally in the hands of these dealers.

“With you, the penny seems to have dropped and I do not see signs of you being an addict.

“I do not think you are completely clean but you have been incredibly honest.

“Drug rehabilitation works miracles, particularly with people your age.

“You have been hooked on this filth since you were 28 and it has done nothing but cause problems in you life.

“This sentence is not just best for your but for the public as well.”

Judge Lynch said Hughes, of Lord Holland Road, Colchester, could expect to be jailed if he stepped out of line.

“Please don’t appreciate me and think I am a soft touch, I am not,” she added.

“If you breach this order you will be back in front of me and I will not think twice.

“I am giving you the chance as you have earned the chance.

“You are an old dog so please show that you can learn new tricks.”