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Student who supplied MDMA to friend who died is warned she faces prison - Sheffield Crown Court

Joana Burns.
Joana Burns.

The friend of a student who died after taking ecstasy as she celebrated the end of her time at university has been warned that she could go to jail after she admitted supplying controlled drugs.

Joana Burns was celebrating finishing her final year of a maths degree at Sheffield Hallam University when she died after taking £7 worth of the drug, also known as MDMA, an inquest into her death heard earlier this year.

Her friend Katherine Lavin, 21, appeared at Sheffield Crown Court today (Sept 18) after admitting supplying MDMA and possessing cannabis before magistrates at an earlier hearing.

She appeared alongside another former student, Benjamin Williams, who admitted supplying MDMA at the hearing on Tuesday.

Judge Jeremy Richardson QC said he could not sentence the pair as he required a pre-sentence report.

Lavin, of Kentmore Close, Stockport, and former computer science student Williams, 25, of Melbourne Road, Sheffield, will both be sentenced on October 12.

Granting bail to the pair, the judge said: “These are serious matters. All sentencing options remain open and that includes being sent to prison.”

He said: “Please read nothing into into the fact that pre-sentence reports are required and please read nothing into the fact you are being given bail.”

In May, an inquest heard how Miss Burns was with a group of friends who all agreed to take the drug as they went out for a “final fling”.

Lavin, who was one of the group, bought the ecstasy in the form of a powder which they each then made into “bombs” using cigarette paper, Sheffield Coroner’s Court was told.

Miss Burns’ boyfriend, Lewis Birch, told the hearing how the 22-year-old had taken the ecstasy willingly and he thought it was probably the third time she had done it.

Mr Birch said the group decided to go to the Tuesday Club at Sheffield University students’ union and that Miss Burns took one “bomb” before she went into the union building on June 6, last year.

The court heard how she took another in the early hours of the morning but witnesses said she vomited that one straight back up before she started fitting and was taken to hospital.

Mr Birch said he paid £14 for two quarters of ecstasy.

He told the coroner that everyone else who had taken the drug in the group was unharmed.

Mr Birch said the group had decided to go out that night as a last celebration of their time at university, which a police officer described in the inquest as a “final fling”.

Pathologist Kim Suvarna told the inquest the MDMA probably reacted with enzymes in her body to cause it to overheat.

Dr Suvarna said: “There’s no such thing as a safe drug, particularly with this kind of psychoactive substance.”

He told the coroner: “The young tend to believe they can do things they wish because they are young and immortal.

“Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply.”

Assistant coroner Abigail Combes recorded a verdict of misadventure.

Miss Burns’ mother, Mosca Burns, from Alfreton, Derbyshire, was in court on Tuesday but said she did not want to comment until the sentencing hearing.

In May she warned of the dangers of ecstasy, saying: “It’s not worth the risk.”

Mrs Burns has previously said that she hoped her daughter, who wanted to be a maths teacher, would be remembered more as an inspiration for girls to take up maths rather than as a victim of illegal drugs.