New dad started skunk farm in Hartlepool home to pay off debts

Teesside Crown Court.
Teesside Crown Court.

A new dad who had a skunk cannabis farm in his home was spared jail because it was his first ever offence.

Contractor Andrew Ward, 30, said that he had been pressured into setting up the operation it to pay off debts from a road accident that was not his fault.

Ward, the father of a 10-month-old baby, said that he had been forced to move out of his bedroom to make way for the 38 plants which took over his two bedroom bungalow in Hartlepool.

Prosecutor Emma Atkinson told Teesside Crown Court that police executed a search warrant at the address on December 23 last year, and an expert valued them at £26,000.

Ward initially claimed that they were all for his own use, and he said that he had spent £280 setting it up.

Miss Atkinson said that the electricity supply had not been bypassed, as in many properties used for cannabis farms.

Ward said that in August last year he had a bill for damage to his vehicle after a road accident, and was growing cannabis to pay it off.

He said that he was told at first that it would involve 20 plants but he was given 38 plants and he was forced to move out of his bedroom.

Martin Scarborough, mitigating, said that Ward was a man of previous good character and he was highly regarded by his employers and people who knew him.

He worked as a cable joiner on the construction of a new hospital in Glasgow.

Mr Scarborough added: “He is very worried about the outcome of this case, and it has affected his health.

“It was the pressure that was being put on him following the road traffic accident. There certainly was some intimidation there.”

Judge Tony Briggs told Ward: “It is clear that no crop had been harvested from those plants.

“The likelihood is that even if you had not been caught the profit might be less than forecast by the prosecution expert.

“It seems to me that it is possible, but only just, and I must confess that I found it a difficult matter, to suspend that sentence.”

Ward, whose address is now Eskdale Road, Hartlepool, was given 18 months jail suspended for two years after he pleaded guilty to production of a Class B drug.