Sometimes it takes intricate police work to crack a big drug case.

Other times evidence falls into their lap.

The case of Paul Emmanuel Milligan, 53, fell firmly into the latter category.

After being arrested in August 2018 and charged with methamphetamine-dealing offences, he was released on bail, the Dunedin District Court heard yesterday.

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On November 24 that year, it became starkly apparent that he had not kept his nose clean.

A member of the public handed in a cellphone to police, it was locked but displayed a photo of Milligan smoking a methamphetamine pipe.

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He was summoned to the station but there was no reunion between the defendant and the electronic device.

Milligan ended up behind bars and police obtained a warrant to access the phone's activity during the previous three months.

It showed that only days after being released on bail, the defendant was again selling the class-A drug to several people and offered it to others.

Milligan supplied $2550 worth until his timely arrest, court documents revealed.

Phone data from between June and August 2018 showed he had earlier been more prolific.

Over that period, he offered or sold 14.5g of meth, worth about $7000, and was caught with nearly double that.

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Police arrested him the first time after executing a search warrant at a central Dunedin hotel.

Officers found 1.5g of the drug in Milligan's clothing and 22g hidden under the plastic liner of a bin.

Two sets of digital scales were also seized.

The thorough search also turned up plenty more which was indicative of a regular dealer and user of the class-A substance.

There were numerous small deal bags in the hotel room, along with eight new glass pipes, and hypodermic needles and syringes.

Milligan admitted the drugs were his and explained he was going to use some and sell some to make "a couple of grand".

The defendant benefited from a recent Court of Appeal decision — R v Zhang — which allowed drug dealers reduced sentences if they could prove they were driven by their addiction.

Judge Kevin Phillips accepted Milligan was within that category.

While behind bars, he said, the defendant had done the "hard yards" breaking his addiction.

He jailed Milligan for two years but because of the time he had spent there on remand, he would be released immediately.

Judge Phillips imposed six months of release conditions which meant he would have to complete any treatment Probation deemed necessary, and barred him from alcohol and non-prescription drug use.

The judge said he hoped it would be Milligan's last time before the court.

"Hopefully," the man said.