A judge has shown mercy on a Watford teenager who joined a county lines drugs gang to help his hard-pressed mother with housekeeping money.

Kian May, now aged 18, of Starling Place, Watford, admitted conspiracy to supply class A heroin and cocaine and was ordered to do 100 hours unpaid community work and ten rehabilitation activity days and pay £500 costs by Judge Peter Johnson at Exeter Crown Court.

May was just 16 when he was recruited by a Watford-based gang that set up shop on the banks of the River Exe in Exeter after travelling to Devon in a hired car.

A worried friend texted May while he was in Exeter and asked if he was doing something stupid. He replied: "No but yes. I'm smart about what I'm doing. Things are hard. I have to give my mum some money back."

His mother was struggling to bring up six siblings after splitting up with her partner, who is a former professional boxer.

Prosecutor Rachel Drake outline how May was caught in May 2018 by police watching the activity of drug users as they headed for Belle Isle Park in Exeter to meet the dealers, who had parked their car in nearby Weirfield Road.

He was arrested with another 16-year-old as he walked along the river towards the Quay. The other boy had five wraps of heroin or crack worth £50 but May had no drugs or cash on him.

Surveillance and phone evidence showed he had travelled down with the gang and sent texts offering drugs on their behalf.

He was freed on a community order after a judge heard how he has stayed out of trouble since his arrest in May 2018 and is now working as a labourer and training at a boxing gym.

He told him that drug supply offences are so serious they normally result in long prison sentences but he was able to show clemency in light of May's age and the fact that the boy arrested with him had received a youth rehabilitation order.

He told him: "You were living with your siblings and mother and it seems you needed to make some money and were persuaded by an older man to take part in this trip.

"Many young people preyed upon by older, more sophisticated criminals to go to cities and towns all over Britain. I take into account that this is your first brush with the law and what you have done since being arrested to turn your life around."

Rachel Drake, prosecuting, said the hire car that had brought him to Devon was identified.

In mitigation, Greg Richardson said May was going through a rebellious phase at the time but has now settled down and got a job. He is a promising boxer at Bushey Boxing Club, having been introduced to the sport by his father.

He now helps his mother by paying for his keep out of his wages and looking after his younger siblings.