A former law abiding soldier from Wirral has been put behind bars for two years after being forced into drug dealing to pay off his step-son's debt.

Kevin Ambrose had a distinguished Army career and had never been in trouble with the law but after drug dealers could not find his step-son ,who owed them £5,000, they transferred the debt to him.

A judge told him that he could have expected a sentence of four years but "as an act of mercy" he was going outside sentencing guidelines and imposing just half that term.

"What you did was for the best of reasons but one of the worst crimes," said Judge Robert Warnock.

"You knew that and I know that.

"Your motive in this was was undoubtedly to assist your step son. Such motivation was wholly misguided. You thought you by being involved in this filthy trade could produce a result which would benefit him.

"That was a grave and serious mistake."

He added: "I take into account the likelihood of you re-offending is practically zero."

53-year-old Ambrose, of School Close, Moreton, admitted supplying cocaine, possessing it with intent to supply, cultivating cannabis and abstracting electricity.

Robert Jansen, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that Ambrose's step-son had run up a £5,000 debt because of his Class A drug addiction.

"Those who were pressuring him for the money took it upon themselves to transfer that debt to Ambrose because they couldn't find his step-son and he was instructed to deal in cocaine to clear the debt."

He was also told to grow cannabis in his home and when police raided it on July 3 they found 20 mature plants in his loft. They also found 21 wraps of cocaine on the mantlepiece in his lounge.

Mr Jansen police accepted Ambrose's account and had found that the cannabis farm was a sophisticated set up and not a one man band operation. "They also confirmed he is not a typical Class A dealer," he added.

The cannabis crop had a potential street value of £32,000 and the cocaine was worth just over £100. Dealers tick lists were also found.

Neil Howard, defending, said that Ambrose, who served 14 years in the Army, was remorseful and knew at first hand the damage such drugs do.

It was a tragic case not least because the stress and strains caused by the situation led to his former alcoholic wife, who had abstained from alcohol for three years, to relapse and she died in December, he said.

"He holds himself partly responsible because of these offences and it will haunt him for the rest of his life."