Judge warns veteran that PTSD is not a 'get out of jail free card'

Yohannes Lowe
James Gosling, a former Afghanistan war veteran, was jailed after being caught drug driving at 140mph along the M6 motorway - Cavendish Press (Manchester) Ltd

PTSD is not a “get out of jail free card”, a judge has warned as he jails a veteran who blamed his crimes on “harrowing” experiences in Afghanistan.

James Gosling, 27, was eight times the drug driving limit when police caught him racing his Mercedes at 140mph along the M6 motorway, near Lancaster on June 12 last year.

Gosling, who was based at Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, was found with two ounces of high purity cocaine worth £4000, and over £5000 in cash in his vehicle following a search.

At Preston Crown Court, the veteran said his behaviour was caused by the harrowing events- including watching his friends die- he witnessed while on service in the army.

He claimed to have developed post traumatic stress disorder and later became addicted to cocaine.

But Judge Simon Newell jailed him for three and a half years to avoid giving the “green light” to other victims of PTSD to commit crime and escape being locked away.

He said: “You served in the army and you did a tour of Afghanistan and there were incidents that you witnessed that caused you considerable distress and upset. You have no previous convictions and you served your country.

“Your drug addiction may be self-medication for PTSD, that may or may not be the case. You keep in touch with a number of colleagues who were, and may still be, in the services.

“I am convinced that a large number of these people will have seen the same kind of things. There are an awful lot of men and women who have PTSD, and have seen horrible things, who don't resort to drug dealing.

“There has to be a deterrent sentence, otherwise it might give the green light to people in the services who will think if they deal drugs then that will be a get out of jail free card.”

Soldiers based at Catterick Garrison marching through Richmond in North Yorkshire on their first Freedom Parade Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA

His defence barrister, Philip Astbury, said: “This is a defendant who, with distinction and courage, served this country in the Army and did a harrowing tour of duty in Afghanistan. He was on the battlefield when his friend sustained fatal injuries.

“He did work at times with disabled passengers on the rail network, so he has tried to lead a working life since then. But, he fell into a rapid down spiral of drug misuse.

“A serious drug addiction has developed, and he started buying large quantities for himself. He has now found difficulty in finding work. He was a man of positive good character until these events.”

Gosling, from Liverpool, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and possession of cocaine with intent to supply. He also admitted to driving while unfit through drugs and was banned from driving for five years.

Last year, King’s College London found that nearly one in three veterans who saw combat roles in Iraq or Afghanistan is suffering from a mental health disorder.

Of the 8,093 participants included in the study, 62 per cent had deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.