A drug user who repeatedly turned to dealing to pay for his habit has been jailed under the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule.

Robert Wooldridge was caught selling class A drugs for the fifth time when police found him acting as a runner for a County Lines drugs gang in Exeter.

 He was jailed under a law which imposed a mandatory seven year sentence, with only a 20 per cent discount for guilty plea, for anyone caught selling hard drugs for the third or more time.

Wooldridge has already served two long sentences in 2011 and 2016 and was released from his last sentence two years before he was arrested again in June 2021.

 He was sent back to jail despite conquering a lifelong heroin addiction and becoming a full time carer for his sick mother in Okehampton in the 23 months since his arrest.

Wooldridge is originally from Sidmouth but returned to another former home in Exeter after his last release and returned to a drug taking lifestyle that led him to work for a drugs gang.

 He tried to obstruct police when he was caught red-handed with bags of heroin and crack cocaine near the city centre. He was eventually searched and found with the drugs.

 Wooldridge, aged 48, of Pound Park, Okehampton, admitted possession of heroin and crack with intent to supply and obstructing the police and was jailed for five years and six months by Recorder Mr Donald Tait at Exeter Crown Court.

He told him: “It seems you have not learned your lesson. Here you are again before the court facing a minimum term sentence. In my judgment there are no exceptional circumstances. I would be flying in the face of parliament if I did anything other than impose the minimum sentence.”

 Mr Tom Faulkner, prosecuting, said police became suspicious of Wooldridge’s behaviour in the centre of Exeter on June 30, 2021 when they saw him apparently exchanging items with known drug users.

 They stopped him and eventually retrieved bags of heroin and crack which were ready for street sale.

 Mr Peter Coombe, defending, said it would be unjust to impose the minimum sentence because of the way in which Wooldridge has turned his life around in the time since his arrest.

 He said: “He is no longer using drugs, which is an enormous achievement for him. He has a new partner who is strongly opposed to drugs and has given him the choice between her and drugs.

 “He is a carer for his mother and is paid to look after her for 30 house a week. She is in poor health. He is motivated to remain drug free. The reports from probation and the liaison and diversion services both recommend a non-immediate sentence.”

 Mr Coombe said Wooldridge’s drug dealing was at the lowest end of the chain and his role would normally be classed as lesser. He said the sentence may well be suspended but for his previous convictions.