A MAN who got behind the wheel while almost 20 times over the drug-drive limit has been spared a prison sentence.

Craig Russell, of Hosker Road in Bournemouth, was pulled over by police while driving in Wentworth Avenue at 11.20pm on May 6 this year.

Officers searching his car discovered a knuckle-duster in the glove compartment and arrested the 36-year-old.

A blood test then revealed that Russell had 192 micrograms of cocaine per litre of blood.

The limit is 10.

The defendant also had 392 micrograms of benzoylecgonine - a main metabolite of cocaine - per litre of blood. The legal limit is 50.

In addition, Russell had 14 micrograms of 6-MAM in his blood.

The substance is a metabolite of heroin, and the limit is five micrograms.

Prosecuting at Bournemouth Crown Court, Simon Edwards said Russell told officers he had bought the knuckle-duster some years ago in Egypt.

"He had forgotten that he had it," Mr Edwards said.

"He had found it again recently and placed it in the car. He then forgot that it was there."

However, David Jenkins, mitigating, said Russell - a "long-time drug user" - had put the knuckle-duster in his Ford Focus when he moved out of the family home after a relapse.

"He was required to leave home so he picked up some items," Mr Jenkins said.

"One of the items he picked up happened to be the knuckle-duster."

The barrister said Russell had bought the weapon "simply as a toy" at first.

"Because he had left the home, he ended up sleeping rough in his car on the clifftops and felt it was useful to have [the knuckle-duster] around the car in case he needed to protect himself," Mr Jenkins said.

"That was the reason it remained in the glovebox."

Russell, who has a previous conviction for robbery, admitted possessing an offensive weapon in a public place and three counts of driving with the proportion of a controlled drug above a specified limit before magistrates.

Mr Jenkins said: "Drugs react in the body in a very different way to alcohol and stay in the body for a long period of time.

"The figures [in the case] are not necessarily unexpected in a week-long relapse."

He added that officers had given Russell a sobriety test.

"The conclusion of the test is that the defendant was not impaired," he said.

Judge Brian Forster QC, who sentenced Russell to six months in prison suspended for two years, noted that the defendant was supported in court by his long-term partner and father.

"You might do well just to sit and reflect about how lucky you are to have that support," Judge Forster told Russell.

The defendant must also complete a 30-day rehabilitation requirement, observe a night-time curfew and pay a victim surcharge.

He was barred from driving for 12 months.