Cannabis grower avoids jail

A CANNABIS gardener who grew drugs with an estimated street value of £30,000 has been spared jail.

Police discovered 65 cannabis plants after they raided Michael Best’s home in Borrowdale Street, Hartlepool.

The 29-year-old roofer had devoted a back bedroom to growing the plants complete with suspended lighting and timers.

Teesside Crown Court heard he agreed to grow cannabis in his private rented home to pay off VAT debts after being approached by a friend and would have pocketed a third of the profits.

Prosecutor Rachel Masters said when fully-grown the plants could have produced £29,250 of cannabis per crop if it was sold at street value.

That could have risen to £87,750 if the plants produced three crops a year, the court heard.

Describing the set-up, Miss Masters said: “As officers searched they found 65 cannabis plants in plastic pots, reflective plastic and a filter system with suspended lighting.

“There we’re also timed switches and a hand watering system present.

“In a second bedroom there were a large number of power packs, lights, black bags filled with wall lining and digital scales.

“The defendant returned that evening and was arrested by police and taken to the police station.”

Best, of Borrowdale Street, pleaded guilty to production of a Class B drug last December.

He said he agreed to grow the cannabis after being approached by a friend because he was short of money.

He said his pal provided all the equipment but Best agreed he set it up and looked after the plants.

Alex Menary, mitigating for the dad of two, said the plants were around three months away from being ready to harvest when they were seized by police.

Mr Menary said: “In reality, that money was never achieved because the plants were seized by the police.

“This is his first brush with the criminal justice system. It seems he didn’t appreciate the seriousness of what he was doing.”

Judge Tony Briggs said the offence was so serious to deserve prison but said he could suspend the sentence because of Best’s previous clean record and he pleaded guilty.

He was given 20 months prison suspended for two years and ordered to do 150 hours unpaid work.