A DRUG dealer who went on the run because he faced a minimum seven-year jail sentence as a ‘third striker’ was apprehended when he stepped out of the shadows by opening a bank account and claiming benefits.

Richard Mason was arrested in London last month after he was at large for almost eight years, Bradford Crown Court heard.

Mason, 52, who was living in Skipton when he disappeared, was remanded first into HMP Wandsworth before being brought back to Yorkshire and locked up in Leeds Prison.

He pleaded guilty last month to breaching his bail by failing to turn up for his trial.

Yesterday, the Recorder of Bradford, Judge Richard Mansell QC, said Mason was being sentenced for three offences of possession with intent to supply Class A drugs and six of simple possession of drugs, on July 4, 2013.

On that date, an employee of Skipton Building Society spotted a discarded rucksack in the grounds and reported it to the police. It contained a significant stash of drugs, including Ecstasy and a bag of magic mushrooms, Class A drugs which Mason now admitted possessing with intent to supply

There was also LSD, Diazepam and Ketamine in the rucksack along with his passport so he was soon traced by the police.

He attended at the magistrates’ court but disappeared before the first hearing at the crown court in June, 2014.

Mason fled to London where he had spent most of his adult life and went to ground under a false name. He was homeless for many years and his health deteriorated.

His barrister, Saf Salam, said he was found ‘at death’s door’ outside Victoria Tube Station and given hostel accommodation. To stay there, he needed to claim benefits and he was caught when he opened a bank account.

Mason’s previous convictions included robbery and possession with intent to supply Class A drugs. In 2009 he was jailed for 78 months and he was on licence when he committed the 2013 offences.

“I am prepared to accept that in all likelihood you did supply class A drugs to a select group of like-minded Class A drug users to finance your own habit which you could plainly not afford on benefits, as opposed to running a business selling Class A drugs to vulnerable users,” Judge Mansell said.

“The fact that you had this stash of drugs in a rucksack together with your passport speaks volumes that you were not running a sophisticated commercial drugs supply business for profit.”

Judge Mansell said he was prepared to treat the case as exceptional.

Mason had not lived a good life since disappearing but a life where he had to live beneath the radar using a false name.

He was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 100 hours of unpaid work and 20 rehabilitation activity days.