Judge warns: ‘Drug growing has got to stop’

THREE men have been jailed for a total of 33 months after police discovered three separate cannabis farms worth a combined potential of £40,000.

Hartlepool men Colin Hackworth, John Robinson and Mark Coser each appeared separately at Teesside Crown Court for unconnected matters.

The court heard that all three grew the cannabis for their own use, with Hackworth occasionally “selling bits and pieces to family and friends” and Robinson sometimes “sharing the fruits of his labour with a circle of close friends”.

Police figures show there were 88 reported cannabis farms in Hartlepool in the last 12 months.

Judge George Moorhouse jailed all three men, saying: “It’s very prevalent at the moment in this part of the world to grow your own cannabis plants and it’s got to stop.”

Prosecuting John Gillette said police went to Hackworth’s Coleridge Avenue home after witnesses reported a smell of cannabis around the property.

Officers found a set-up in the front bedroom that included wall insulation, filtration systems and halogen lights as well as a smaller operation in another bedroom.

Mr Gillette said 128 plants were found with a total yield of 3.579kg.

Following negotiations with the defence’s expert analyst, it was agreed that the likely value of the haul was between £19,173 and £25,564.

Hackworth, a 43-year-old electrician’s mate, admitted cannabis production and abstracting £1,101.53 of electricity as part of the set-up on November 30, last year.

Richard Herrman, mitigating, said Hackworth’s cannabis use had “escalated” after he suffered a “significant” injury to his right arm almost two years ago.

He said he had used the drug for 10 years but, having been unable to afford it after being unable to find alternative work following his injury, he took to growing his own.

Judge George Moorhouse sentenced Hackworth to 21 months in prison.

Prosecuting Robinson, a roofer, Mr Gillette said police raided a property in Church Street on January 16 and found 30 cannabis plants, along with an associated ventilation system.

He said there was a potential yield of 1,200g, with the police valuing the find as £12,000.

However, Mr Gillette said this was based on 1g deals and the price would come down if sold in greater quantities.

Judge Moorhouse accepted a value of £8,000.

Robinson, 28, of Powell Street, admitted cannabis production between November 15 last year and January 17, this year.

Mr Hermann, mitigating for Robinson, said: “This really is the bottom category in terms of size of the operation.”

Robinson was jailed for six months.

Mr Gillette, prosecuting Coser, said police went to Coser’s home above a shop in Owton Manor Lane and he did not open the door for five minutes.

He said it emerged that in that time, 24 cannabis plants in two blue recycling boxes had been thrown out of a window onto an adjacent roof.

“It’s right the remnants of a cannabis farm were found,” he added.

The court heard 1,028g of cannabis was seized, with a negotiated value of £7,000.

Coser, 38, admitted cannabis production on November 24, last year.

Mr Hermann, mitigating, said Coser’s was the least sophisticated set-up of all three defendants.

He urged Judge Moorhouse to consider a suspended sentence so Coser could look after his son and continue his month-old business.

Judge Moorhouse jailed Coser for six months.

Detective Sergeant Daryll Tomlinson of Hartlepool Police Drugs Unit said: “We are pleased with yesterday’s sentences.

“They send a clear message that those growing cannabis farms and dealing in the drug will not be tolerated.

“We will continue to act on information we receive and offenders will be dealt with in the appropriate manner and brought to justice.”