A WAR veteran who facilitated the sale of cocaine to pals was spared prison by a judge who ruled the serving soldier was "owed an obligation" by the country.

Staff Sergeant Andrew Barnard, 34, of the Communication Information Systems division (CIS), directed friends who wanted drugs to pal Kenneth Bain, 32.

Birmingham Crown Court heard the Iraq and Afghanistan veteran faced being kicked out of the army without his pension after 17 years of service.

But taking what he called an exceptional course, Recorder Benjamin Nicholls spared SSgt Barnard prison in a bid to save the soldier's career.

Described by a senior officer as 'the go to man' with important tasks, Recorder Nicholls handed SSgt Barnard, of Careless Green, Wollescote, Stourbridge, a community order with 90 hours unpaid work.

Recorder Nicholls said: "When someone serves their country in that way the country owes an obligation to him and he is entitled to draw upon it at this stage."

SSgt Barnard pleaded guilty to a charge of being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs.

Bain, of Crownoaks Drive, Wordsley, admitted possession of cocaine with intent to supply, being concerned in the supply of cocaine and possession if cannabis.

He was also spared jail after hearing how he fell into drugs after being shot while working as a doorman.

SSgt Barnard helped Bain sell cocaine to a group of friends on six occasions between September and December 2014.

Sparing the soldier prison, Recorder Nicholls said: "I accept your role was very limited and wholly out of character.

"You have never been involved in drugs yourself.

"You made no money out of it and acted as a facilitator on six occasions over three months.

"In every way you have an exemplary army record.

"You have served your country in not only Afghanistan but also Iraq.

"I consider that is something the country should acknowledge when you find yourself in a situation like this.

"You will not be able to call upon it again, but you can this time.

"I am going to step out of the guidelines in the interests of justice and take a wholly exceptional course.

"It is one that will punish you to a certain extent but enable you to continue to serve your country in the way you have.

"I am told that means there will not be a review of your position and you will be able to continue serving in the army.

"Do not let me see you again."

Police raided the pair's home addresses on December 13 2014 after receiving intelligence they were dealing in cocaine.

At Bain's address they found nearly an ounce of the Class A drug, cutting agents, digital scales, lock-seal bags and a small amount of cannabis.

Evidence found on mobile phones revealed numerous messages between SSgt Barnard and Bains which suggested the pair were dealing drugs.

In a group on messaging service WhatsApp called "The Boys", Bain mocked customers who complained about the strength of the drugs he was selling.

He posted: "I can't believe some people complain about stuff not being strong enough, now they complain it's too strong LOL."

However after hearing how he fell into drug use after being shot, and how he was a well thought-of businessman with several employees, Bain was also spared prison.

He was handed a two year prison sentence suspended for a year with supervision.

Described as a skilled tradesman he was also ordered to carry out 180 hours unpaid work.

Recorder Nicholls said: "Those who get involved in the supply of Class A drugs and other people should not take any encouragement from this sentence.

"It is passed because of what I consider to be the highly unusual factors of this case."