TWO men recruited into drug dealing in Bournemouth have been spared a prison term after a judge said such a decision would be akin to a "death sentence".

Morgan Okhiria, 23, and Abdifathi Ibrahim, 18, were arrested in Suffolk Road on October 20 after drawing the attention of two police officers in plain clothes.

Between them, they had packages of crack cocaine and heroin worth more than £2,500 in their pockets.

Neither of the defendants had even visited Bournemouth or been in trouble with the police before, and Ibrahim, who was just 17 at the time of the offence, suffers poor mental health.

The pair appeared at Bournemouth Crown Court on Thursday for sentence after each admitting a count of possessing a class A drug with intent to supply it.

John Dyer, prosecuting, said two plain-clothes officers were on duty during the evening of the defendant's arrest when they saw three known drug users gathering.

Two of the addicts then went to the underpass between Suffolk Road and Suffolk Road South. The officers saw Ibrahim meeting the users, and an exchange took place.

Ibrahim then walked back towards a block of flats in Suffolk Road, passing by the officers. Not realising he was speaking to police, the defendant asked them to let him into the block as he'd forgotten his keys. He was then arrested.

Mr Dyer said the defendant resisted, and was able to force his hands into his pockets and throw away packages of drugs and cash, which were later seized by police.

The officers then went into the property and found Okhiria in a flat with a 54-year-old Bournemouth woman.

Police believe the woman may have been the victim of 'cuckooing'. The practice occurs when gangs take over the homes of vulnerable people to use as a base for dealing or other criminal activity.

Mark Linehan, mitigating for Ibrahim, said the Somalian-born defendant had suffered "elements of neglect" in his childhood.

Judge Stephen Climie said the defendants were both "fairly classic candidates for a drugs operation", and raised particular concerns for Ibrahim.

"It could be a possible death sentence if I send him to custody - that's my assessment of it," he said.

"I am satisfied in both cases they were being put to work by others. That is quite clear.

"Just watching them, it's apparent that there's fear there."

Speaking to Okhiria, who was accompanied to court by his family, the judge said: "Your mother is in tears.

"You have brought extraordinary stress on members of your family."

Ibrahim, of Halston Drive, Bristol, was sentenced to a three-year community order with 35 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

Okhiria, of Haredon Close, London, was also sentenced to a three-year community order, but will also carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and be the subject of a two-month curfew.

"I reserve any breaches of this order," Judge Climie said.

"This is an opportunity for you both to live real lives, however difficult life has been to date.

"This is your chance. Take it or don't, but that will be at your peril."