£200,000 Hartlepool cannabis factory

Hartlepool Law Courts, incorporating Hartlepool Magistrates' Court.
Hartlepool Law Courts, incorporating Hartlepool Magistrates' Court.

A DRUG farmer set up a “sophisticated” cannabis factory in his home and grew plants worth almost £200,000.

Robert Thomas, 44, is now facing jail after police uncovered the “professional” set up at his home in Holt Street, Hartlepool.

For nine months he cultivated cannabis plants and even tampered with the electricity supply to feed his high-tech set-up and boost their growth, unbeknown to suppliers.
Thomas pleaded guilty to being concerned in the production of cannabis between January 1 and September 14 last year when he appeared in front of magistrates.

He also admitted a charge of illegally abstracting £2,519 of electricity between the same date in connection with the growing operation.

Magistrates quickly decided to refer the case to the crown court because they felt their powers were not strong enough due to the huge potential value of the drugs.

Prosecutor Paul Power said: “This can only really be dealt with at Teesside Crown Court, the potential yield of the drugs is almost £200,000.

“It was a sophisticated, professional set up in a house where the defendant resided.”

His solicitor Stuart Haywood said: “He accepts his role in the operation.”

Thomas, of Holt Street, Hartlepool, was bailed by the court and will appear at Teesside Crown Court on a date to be arranged.

The seizure is one of many that has seen thousands of pounds of cannabis taken off the streets of Hartlepool in recent years.

In January, cannabis with an estimated value of tens of thousands was discovered at a house in Penryhn Street, off Elwick Road, and in a flat above Mario’s Takeaway in Church Street.

Two men, aged 27 and 32 have been charged with producing cannabis and possessing it with intent to supply.

Police figures showed there were 88 reported cannabis farms in Hartlepool between 2010 and 2011.

One of those was a £500,000 farm near Elwick village set up by three Vietnamese asylum seekers who were later jailed for a total of nine years.

Crown Court Judge George Moorhouse hit out at the amount of cannabis grown in the Hartlepool area in December 2011 when he jailed three Hartlepool men for 33 months.

It was after they each set up their own farms worth a combined potential of £40,000.

Judge Moorhouse said at the time: “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.”