A CHARITY champion who set up a fun run which raised thousands of pounds for cancer research has pleaded guilty to producing cannabis.
Michael Day, who set up the Miles For Men race in Seaton Carew earlier this summer, appeared at Teesside Crown Court alongside his pal Lee Laughton after police discovered a cannabis farm in the loft of Laughton’s home in Tempest Road, Hartlepool.
Laughton, 37, grew 38 skunk-producing cannabis plants the house while Day, 39, was also arrested for watering the plants while his friend was away on holiday.
Police discovered the cannabis farm by accident when they were looking for two missing girls and found a ladder leading to the loft.
Laughton was yesterday locked up for eight months for his part in the operation, while Day, of Innes Road, Hartlepool, was ordered to do 160 hours unpaid work.
Speaking to the Mail after being sentenced, Day said agreeing to water the cannabis plants was “the biggest mistake of my life”.
The dad-of-three now admits that he was “stupid” to ever agree to it and said he has had sleepless nights for more than a year since police discovered the cannabis farm in June last year.
“It was the biggest mistake I have ever made and one which I totally regret,” he said.
“I’m absolutely gutted, obviously.
“I have known Lee since we were kids.
“He was in debt and let everything get on top of him and this was his absolute last resort.
“He went away for a week and told me I was the only one he could trust.
“I did him a favour but I realise how stupid I was to get involved in any way at all.”
Day stressed the week where he watered the cannabis plants was before he started his charity work.
Now yesterday’s court case is behind him he plans to move on with his dedicated fundraising and make next year’s Miles for Men an even bigger success.
“I’ve had so many sleepless nights thinking about the court case,” he added.
“I’m just glad it’s out of the way now, I’ve definitely learnt my lesson.
“I want to keep moving on with the charity, that’s what all my efforts are going on.”
Laughton, meanwhile, told police he intended to sell the cannabis to pay off his debts.
Prosecutor Sue Jacobs told the court the plants were 15 inches high and would have produced 1.52kg of skunk with an estimated value of £15,200.
Martin Scarborough, mitigating for both men, said Laughton decided to grow cannabis after he lost his job and he could not deal with his debts.
He said he was now taking steps to sort them out through the Citizens Advice Bureau and other agencies.
Mr Scarborough added Day helped Laughton through “misguided loyalty” because he knew his friend had money problems.
Both men pleaded guilty to production of cannabis on June 30 last year.
They will have to pay nominal £1 sums under the Proceeds of Crime Act after the court heard neither had any assets to seize.
Recorder Ian Thorp said that Laughton had a significant criminal history and had accepted that he intended to sell the drugs for a profit.