A GARDENER for a £14,000 cannabis farm has been spared jail after a judge decided to give him a chance to prove he had turned his life around.
Kieran Readman, 24, looked after plants that occupied two full rooms of a house in Derby Street, Hartlepool.
Teesside Crown Court heard they had the potential to produce cannabis with a street value of up to £14,800.
The cannabis farm was discovered by an electricity firm worker on January 26 when he went round to remove the meter because the bill had not been paid.
Shaun Dodds, prosecuting, said: “Two rooms were full of cannabis plants with a series of lights, transformers, air extraction system and windows covered up with sheeting to keep out natural light.”
Readman was arrested because post at the house was addressed to him.
But Mr Dodds said there was “compelling evidence” another unnamed man, now serving a five-year jail term, was behind the enterprise.
He added: “When various questions were asked by police it became apparent he didn’t know an awful lot about growing cannabis at all.”
The court heard Readman, a plasterer, watered the plants every couple of days in return for money or cannabis but he was never given any.
Andrew McGloin, mitigating, said Readman was deep in debt at the time and started mixing with drug users and suppliers after the death of his grandmother.
Mr McGloin said: “At that point his life spiralled downhill.
“It’s quite clear he didn’t set this enterprise up.
“He has had a very troubled year and hopefully he has now put that behind him.
“He seems to have made very positive changes in his life and seems a lot more stable now than it did at the time this offence was committed.”
Readman, of St Abbs Walk, Hartlepool, admitted production of cannabis, a Class B drug.
He was given 12 months prison, suspended for 18 months with supervision.
Judge Peter Bowers said: “You have got yourself in very deep water here. By rights this sort of offence deserves 12 to 18 months.
“You make my life very hard but I think I can suspend the sentence and give you a chance.
“Try and sort your life out and let this be a bad year that you can put behind you.”