Three plants? Why, that's a cannabis farm. Photo: Fotoblog Rare
Three plants? Why, that's a cannabis farm. Photo: Fotoblog Rare

What is there to say about cannabis farms this week?

On Tuesday October 13, police executing a warrant happened upon a small cannabis plot and some dried cannabis at the home of 55-year-old Kevin Norris in Bay Court, Killamarsh, northeast Derbyshire. He had already been convicted of producing and supplying cannabis and abstracting electricity back in June. Norris’ 16-month gaol sentence was suspended for two years and he was lumbered with 200 hours of unpaid work. At a hearing on Thursday 22 October, it was ordered that ?8,400 ($12,900) be confiscated from him under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The following Tuesday, police stormed a flat on Jonah Driver, off New Road in Great Bridge in the West Midlands, and brought to light a ?cannabis factory,? replete with hydroponic and ventilation equipment. There were over a dozen cannabis plants worth ?49,000 ($75,000). No arrests have been made.

Police were confronted by three bedrooms converted to grow cannabis when they raided a semi-detached house on Chiltern Road in Liverpool on 9 April. There were 17 plants, worth as much as ?13,600 ($21,000). Martin Gill had been renting the house for ?450 ($690) a month since January 2015, claiming to have slept there only five or six times. He surrendered himself to the filth.

“thought it was a good idea at the time”

Sophisticated equipment was installed and a window boarded up. Electricity was abstracted to power all that groovy gear. Gill would have sold the drugs to friends and consumed some himself. At Gill’s court appearance this week, Robert Haygarth, defending, stated that Gill ?thought it was a good idea at the time but doesn?t now.? Gill had in the past been cautioned for possession of cannabis but, sayeth Haygarth, has a strong work ethic and wished to curb his cannabis habit but currently felt unable to do so.

Gill pled guilty. The judge, Recorder William Waldron QC, felt that Gill’s sins warranted a six-month gaol sentence, but, ?by a cat’s whisker,? this was suspended for 12 months. Gill was instructed to perform 100 hours of unpaid work and take a rehabilitation course.

When police visited 30-year-old Darren Ainsley at his home on Miers Avenue, Hartlepool, in connection with another matter, they chanced upon 20 cannabis plants in the loft, three-and-a-bit ounces of loose cannabis in jars and ?300 ($460) of cash. The plants were mostly poorly. Ainsley informed police that the plants were for his own consumption, although perhaps some friends might have benefitted. There were no dealer bags or text messages to indicate that he was an evil drug dealer. He was convicted of assault a decade ago and had not subsequently offended with the exception of a little cannabis possession in January, has two kids and a supportive partner and works part-time as a builder. In light of this, when Ainsley appeared in the dock this week, Judge David Hatton gave him no more than a six-month gaol sentence suspended for a year, 120 hours of unpaid work and a ?300 fine for court costs, noting, ?I think you have probably learned your lesson.?

The Clocks, Locks and Lights campaign aims to deter burglars, advising that lights and radios are left on when you’re out and doors have strong locks. On Monday 19 October, 500 police constables duly made house calls in the borough of Barnet in northwest London to issue advice on how to put off housebreakers. Two caught a strong whiff of cannabis when they visited a house on Friern Barnet Road, New Southgate, finding around 30 cannabis plants and hydroponics equipment. They had been allowed in by the occupant, which seems rather silly. Four people were arrested and released on bail: 48- and 18-year-old females and 44- and 17-year-old males. And hey, did you know that burglaries almost double every year when the clocks go back?

Police in Whitworth in Lancashire turned up three cannabis farms in the space of a week. With the latest, 38 plants and equipment were seized at a house on Victoria Street on Tuesday 20 October. Enquiries are ongoing. Another farm with 96 plants was found in a property on Market Street the day before as a result of a tipoff, for which a gentleman will be interviewed some time. Thousands of pounds worth of the stuff was discovered at a house on Eastgate on Tuesday October 13 after police were given ?cause to attend.? A 27-year-old man was arrested and bailed.

Police with a warrant went unto a house in Ingrow, Keighley, West Yorkshire, on Thursday 22 October. They found around 60 cannabis plants and ?expensive production equipment.? Two people were interviewed.

The Irishman

120 cannabis plants worth as much as ?60,000 ($92,000) were found at premises on Moneysharvin Road, Maghera, County Londonderry in Northern Ireland on Tuesday 22 October following another arrest the previous Sunday where, on Portstewart Road, Coleraine, a routine road-stop of a car driven by a 47-year-old man revealed a small quantity of cannabis. After the raid, men aged 22 and 47 were arrested and released on bail. The plants were in three containers buried underground nearby, which Detective Sergeant Kelly Gallagher over-ebulliently termed ?an underground cannabis factory.?

Sukhdev, Sabu, Tuan, and Ut

On Thursday October 22, 31-year-old Stephen Varley of Pudsey, 36-year-old Sukhdev Singh of Gledhow and 40-year-old Sabu Singh of Leeds appeared at Harrogate Magistrates Court. They were charged with the production of cannabis, although Singh also faced a charge of perverting the course of justice. Their 162-plant cannabis factory was at a disused car factory in Knaresborough ? S&R Motors on Harrogate Road, Ferrensby. Police intervened on April 28 after a local officer became suspicious. The men’s next port of call will be York Crown court.

28-year-old Tuan Anh Pham came all the way from Vietnam to pitch up at the Queen Elizabeth II Law Court in Liverpool this week. Firefighters burst into a flat on Bridport Street on 25 May 2015 to investigate a water leak and discovered 215 cannabis plants. They summoned police, who estimated the haul to be worth between ?96,750 ($149,000) and ?109,300 ($168,000) . Pham, who is of no fixed abode, was arrested after a police appeal. He followed court proceedings through an interpreter. He has yet to enter a plea and was remanded in custody.

Ut Tran, also from Vietnam, lived in ?very meagre circumstances,? sleeping upon a mattress on the floor of the lounge of a rented house in Glen Terrace, Savile Park, Halifax, and tending 285 cannabis plants worth over ?70,000 ($108,000). Police forced entry in April and she was arrested. The case was heard this week.

Tran speaks no English. She had been in the country for around three years, having gained entry as an illegal immigrant. She applied for asylum in 2012, claiming she had been trafficked to pay off a debt and that her two children were in the custody of the traffickers, an assertion the Crown Prosecution Service didn’t accept, for reasons not made clear in court. Having pled guilty to the production of cannabis, she was given a 13-month prison sentence, but will be released within weeks on account of the time she has spent in custody, after which she will be deported. Judge Peter Benson called it a ?sad and troubling case,? where Tran had been ?used? by the owner of the cannabis farm.

?It is a great shame to see you convicted of this offence?

25-year-old James Gapper owed his cocaine dealer ?20,000 ($31,000). 29-year-old Carl Williams owed his ?10,000 ($15,400). So Gapper grew 351 cannabis plants using fertiliser, heat lamps and other equipment and Williams grew 25, which police located when the men were arrested for something else and their properties were searched. Gapper had 14 previous convictions dating back to 2005, including two for growing cannabis. This very week, at Cardiff Crown Court, Kevin Seal, defending, opined that Gapper has ?in some regards has been preyed upon.? He received a 16-month stint in what Thais call ?the monkey house? – prison. Williams had five convictions, none more recent than 2006, which impressed Judge Patrick Curran, who remarked, ?It is a great shame to see you convicted of this offence? and handed him a community order and the requirement to enact 150 hours of unpaid work and undergo 20 days of rehabilitation.

On Friday 23 October, police were despatched to investigate after a break-in was reported in Woodside Road, Tottenham, North London. They entered the property, accompanied by a police dog. While there was no evidence of burglary, the house was full of cannabis plants. A sign on the wall read, ?No smoking any where (sic) in the house.? These folks weren’t great spellers, with the notice also stating ?Do not leave rubish on kitchen floor? and ?Do not leave obsticles in corridors.?

39-year-old Wayne Robinson and 45-year-old Jason Whiley will appear at Worcester Crown Court, charged with running a cannabis farm that had over 400 plants worth around ?650,000 ($1,000,000). The men were arrested in November 2013. Interestingly, the farm was housed in the Drakelow Tunnels nuclear bunker near Kidderminster, which would have been the regional seat of government had the cold war turned hot. The bunker covers 250,000 square feet.

Biggest Bust

This week’s biggest bust was on the remote isle of Bute on the afternoon of Monday 19 October. Police espied 22 pounds of cannabis worth about ?100,000 ($154,000) in a white Renault Trafic van in Port Bannatyne and then raided a number of flats on Castle Street. There were were more than 2,000 cannabis plants valued at around ?800,000 ($1,230,000). Three men, two aged 40 and one a year younger, were arrested.

The trick is to not overdo it. The week saw Ron Hogg, police and crime commissioner of Durham, announce that Durham Constabulary would tackle commercial-scale cannabis farms but not those where people do a little at home. He added, ?Of course it is up to the government to change the law but I am trying to open up a debate about drugs and drugs policy.? Hogg’s is an elected position, although he has more than 30 years of experience as a copper, reaching the rank of Assistant Chief Constable in Durham.

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