A woman who supplied heroin to a teenager who later died after taking it has been jailed for 10 months.
Brenda Pottinger, 39, of Sandveien, was told a custodial sentence may be the only way to help her escape from her “chaotic lifestyle” when she appeared for sentencing at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday.
Her case almost did not take place at all. Sheriff Patrick Davies considered adjourning the case after Pottinger began showing signs of being unwell in the dock.
It was only after defence agent Keith Bovie said she was able to understand what was being said that the case went ahead.
The heroin addict had previously admitted supplying the drug to teenager Daniel Mitchell on 17th December last year. The 18-year-old from Stonehaven died shortly afterwards in the home he shared with his girlfriend.
In a separate incident, Pottinger also assaulted a woman, Samantha Chapman, on 13th April by grabbing her hair and striking her with a knife.
Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie said Mr Mitchell had suffered with “an aggressive heroin habit”. He had been advised to come to Shetland by other drug users during a spell in Craiginches prison in Aberdeen.
Mr MacKenzie said Mr Mitchell had later been directed towards Pottinger to source some heroin.
“She had purchased two £20 score bags of heroin earlier in the day and, as was her practice, she divided those two bags into three, the intention being to keep two for herself,” said the fiscal. “Unfortunately for Mr Mitchell it was he who made that purchase.”
Following the incident police investigating Mr Mitchell’s death quickly began asking questions of Pottinger. She gave varying accounts over the course of three interviews, before finally admitting she had supplied the drug.
Mr MacKenzie said Mr Mitchell was the same age as Pottinger’s own son, who himself suffers from a drug problem.
“It would be true to use that often-used phrase she leads a chaotic lifestyle, that chaos being particularly attributed to her use of heroin,” he said.
The court heard it was her unruly lifestyle that also led to the second offence, which took place in April. Mr MacKenzie said a dispute had broken out between Pottinger and the complainer about money.
“The dispute escalated fairly rapidly to a physical confrontation,” he said. He described a “bizarre” scenario where both parties sized each other up, before Pottinger went back into her house to put on a pair of toe-capped boots.
But when she returned it transpired she had armed herself with a small potato peeler. The resulting attack left her victim with a two centimetre cut above her groin.
However Mr Bovie said the dispute between the two women was not directly related to drugs. Agreeing with Mr MacKenzie’s description of Pottinger’s lifestyle as “chaotic”, he said Pottinger had been living in poverty and “occasional squalor”.
He said her house had been repossessed, but added her “underlying problem” was her addiction to diamorphine. “She has to turn herself around. In a way this has to be a turning point for her. She just can’t go on like this,” said Mr Bovie.
The court heard a DTTO, or detoxification order, would not be available for Pottinger. Sheriff Davies said a custodial sentence might offer Pottinger the best chance to escape from her addiction.
“The option of a DTTO is no longer open to me, but even were there a suggestion I should obtain a DTTO I would be taking the view this offending would merit nothing short of a sentence of imprisonment,” he said.
“It may be imprisonment reaps the best prospect of you ever resolving your drugs problem.”