Drugs farmer pays back £1

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A CANNABIS gardener who grew drugs with a street value of almost £30,000 has been ordered to pay just £1 to the authorities after a crown court hearing.

Michael Best, 29, was spared jail by a judge when he appeared at Teesside Crown Court in January over his role in the illegal drug-growing operation.

He had devoted a back bedroom of his home in Hartlepool to growing the plants, complete with a hi-tech system including suspended lighting and timers.

The Crown Prosecution Service launched confiscation proceedings to claw back any ill-gotten gains Best made from the scheme after he appeared in court earlier this year.

But while the cannabis crop was worth potentially £29,250 if sold at current street values, investigations found Best did not have any assets to seize back in the form of compensation.

He did not fight the proceeds of crime application and was ordered by the court to pay a nominal sum of £1.

Police found 65 cannabis plants at Best’s home in Borrowdale Street, Hartlepool and he pleaded guilty to producing a Class B drug last December when he was hauled before the court.

The plants were in pots and there was a filter system and suspended lighting in place.

A number of power packs, lights, wall lining and digital scales were found in a second bedroom.

Prosecutor Rachel Masters, previously told the court the cannabis plants could potentially have produced drugs up to £87,750 at street value, if they had gone on to produce three crops a year.

The court heard he agreed to grow it for a friend and never received any of the proceeds as the plants were seized by police before they were harvested and were therefore never sold on for any profit.

His barrister, Alex Menary, previously told the court he did not appreciate the seriousness of what he was doing and he had never been in trouble with the courts before.

Best, who works as a roofer, was sentenced in January to 20 months in prison suspended for two years and ordered to do 150-hours unpaid work.

Judge Tony Briggs said the offence warranted a prison sentence but said he could suspend it because of Best’s clean record and guilty plea.

Any illegal profits seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act goes to the Treasury.