Taxi driver caught with ‘balloon for loons’ business cards

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A taxi driver who lost his job due to the pandemic has started a business selling canisters of nitrous oxide.

Daniel Bennett even had business cards and stickers printed to promote his illegal business.

But police stopped him while driving his car on Manchester Road, Prescot, in the early hours of November 21 last year and he looked nervous when questioned.

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Officers searched his Land Rover and found 16 boxes containing a total of 384 cartridges and balloons used to inhale the drugs.

Bennett claimed the boxes were for baking and laughed, said Nardeen Nemat, suing Liverpool Crown Court.

When his home in Hawkins Street, Kensington, was searched, another 504 cartridges were found along with three cell phones and £ 220 in cash.

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Business cards and stickers announcing “a loons balloon” were also found. Boxes of 24 cans were offered for £ 24, crackers for £ 10, ‘free rubbers with every order’ and ‘free delivery throughout Liverpool and the surrounding area seven days a week until late,’ said Miss Nemat.

They also said they are intended for people over the age of 18 and that the company takes no responsibility for any abuse.

On the conviction of the 27-year-old, Recorder Judge Timothy Hannam, QC, said: “I conclude that you knew that owning such a large number of cans for the purpose for which you had them was illegal.”

He said he rejected the assertion by the author of the pre-sentence report that he did not know it was illegal.

The judge said: “You had a number of cans of nitrous oxide which you intended to provide for consumption for psychoactive effects. The maximum penalty is seven years.

“It is not safe to take this gas. It is not a fun, victimless crime. Prolonged use can lead to anemia, nerve damage, and reduced formation of infection-fighting white blood cells. Possession of these canisters for their psychoactive effect was made illegal in 2016, for good reason.

Bennett pleaded guilty to possession of a psychoactive substance with the intention of providing it.

His lawyer Tom Watson said it was a “one-off situation”. Mr Watson said Bennett was supported by his family and partner.

He added: “He put it in place as a short-term solution when he lost his job as a taxi driver. His claim in the PSR that he didn’t know it was illegal is nonsense. He was trying to be half too smart.

“Bennett is not a man who just slips through life without making a contribution. He has always worked and is well qualified as a carpenter.

“He’s never been in trouble before and the prospect of immediate jail terrifies him. He’s a young man the court will never see again.

Mr Watson added that the defendant had a job starting with a tire company in the new year.

Recorder Hannam told Bennett, who had been supplying the drug for several months: “You have a good working record and from the cards and stickers it looks like you applied this industry to this new business and you were very professional about it. “

He pointed out, “You covered what you were doing with business cards that tried to imply that it was a legitimate business and provided you with some sort of cover-up. I found you were doing business on a commercial scale.

He sentenced him to 10 months’ imprisonment with a two-year conditional sentence and ordered him to perform 250 hours of unpaid work. He also confiscated the £ 220 in cash seized by the police and ordered them to pay £ 480 in prosecution costs within a year.

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