A drug supplier has been spared jail despite hospitalising several schoolchildren by selling them pink pills he said he believed were legal highs.
Jamie Thomson denied dealing drugs when questioned by the police, but he told them: “You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”
Several of the children who took the tablets passed out and came round in hospital, the High Court in Edinburgh heard yesterday.
Police in Hawick were alerted after a 15-year-old was seen standing on a bridge outside a school apparently under the influence of drugs.
He was taken to Borders General Hospital in Melrose and told medics that he had taken “one pink jelly”.
Tests carried out on some of the youngsters later revealed traces of benzodiapine, a psychoactive drug, in their urine.
Thomson, 20, of Peebles, had earlier admitted culpably and recklessly supplying tablets of “an unknown noxious psychoactive chemical substance or substances” to youths in exchange for money, putting their lives at risk by rendering them unconscious or insensible and requiring immediate hospitalisation and emergency treatment.
That offence was committed between August 18 and 21 last year at his then home in Hawick’s Havelock Street and elsewhere in the town, just days after Thomson had been freed on bail at Jedburgh Sheriff Court for a previous offence.
A judge told Thomson he had owned up to a very serious offence.
Lady Morag Wise said: “But for the intervention, mostly of their parents, in seeking immediate medical attention, the consequences could have been far more serious than they were.”
She deferred sentencing for a year, however, after being told that Thomson was undertaking a residential rehabilitation programme.
She said: “In a year’s time, you will be brought back to court, and I will expect to hear that you have fully complied with and completed the rehabilitation programme.”
The judge told Thomson that he was being given an opportunity to put his life on the right track, but she warned that all sentencing options, including imprisonment, remained open to her.
The court heard that the first victim of the tablets was a 14-year-old boy. He called at Thomson’s home on August 18 and was shown a bag containing between 30 and 50 of the pink pills.
Thomson claimed he had ordered them from Thailand and took some of them, offering one to the youngster.
The boy initially turned it down, but Thomson persisted and his guest swallowed one.
Thomson then said he had to go out to drop off more tablets, and that was the last the teenager remembered before waking in hospital.
A 16-year-old girl was given two tablets the same day, saying she would pay later. Thomson told her they were £5 for five, and that to get a better effect, she should crush them and put the powder in her mouth with some juice.
She took one tablet before going home and the second after she arrived. Her next recollection was waking up 36 hours later and being told by her mother that she had been in hospital.
One teenager found a single pink pill in a packet while walking past a school in Hawick. He picked it up and later took it and blacked out.
Another 15-year-old was charged £1 for a pink pill he believed to be Valium. He was also driven to hospital after appearing confused.
Two other 15-year-olds bought a tablet each for £1 after being told they were “strong”. They too later woke up in hospital.
Police found a bag containing about 60 pills at Thomson’s home.
He told officers: “It’s a bag of legal drugs, legal highs. They weren’t ecstasy.”
He said that he had taken ecstasy previously so he knew that the pills were not the real thing, adding that he intended to flush the pills down the toilet.
After being charged, he claimed: “I’ve not been supplying people with pills.”
His defence counsel, Victoria Dow, said Thomson had been abusing drugs himself at the time of the offence and had bought the pills online in the belief that they were legal highs.
He accepted that he did not know what was in the pills, however.
“He had been taking these himself and also required medical treatment in respect of that, and he acknowledges the effects both for him and everyone else could have been far worse,” she said.
Ms Dow added that Thomson had since “taken significant steps to put himself on a far more positive path”.