Jail for drug addict who let Hartlepool home become £174,000 cannabis farm

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A DRUG addict who gave up two floors of his home for a major cannabis farm worth £174,000 has been jailed.

Habitual shoplifter Robert Thomas, 44, devoted the whole of the first and second floors of his house in Holt Street, Hartlepool, to the “professional” set up.

It took up so much room that he lived mostly on the ground floor, a court heard.

But it was smashed when it was discovered by police, who raided the house and discovered more than 100 plants and cuttings at various stages of growth.

Thomas, who has a long criminal record, was locked up at Teesside Crown Court for two years for his role in the operation.

Police were confronted by a strong smell of cannabis when they ended the house with a search warrant on September 13 last year.

Sue Jacobs, prosecuting, said: “The whole of the first and second floor of these premises, which were privately rented by the defendant had been given over to a cannabis farm.

“Clearly it was a substantial set up and likely to have been supplied to a large number of people.”

There were 176 plants, including 63 that had been harvested, plus 21 younger cuttings.

The electricity had been bypassed and £2,500 worth of power had been illegally tapped.

Thomas told police he had been approached by other criminals who offered him up to £3,000 if they let him use his house.

He claimed they provided all the equipment and someone went round regularly to water and check on the plants.

Thomas pleaded guilty to being concerned in the production of cannabis and illegally abstracting electricity.

Richard Herrmann, mitigating, said Thomas had mostly been a shoplifter to pay for his heroin addiction.

“The temptation was too much for him,” Mr Herrmann said. “He was offered what to him was a very significant amount of money to allow his property to be used in the way that it was.

“He’s never been involved in anything like this before. He was naive and extremely foolish.

“He was restricted to living effectively on the ground floor so the operation could take place.”

The Recorder of Middlesbrough Judge Simon Bourne-Arton told Thomas he had no doubt he had been recruited by others who set up the cannabis farm.

But he added: “It was a sophisticated and professionally run cannabis farm producing a large quantity of cannabis with substantial and significant values attached.

“Had it all been harvested the yield on the street would have been £174,000. Therefore this was a significant role by you because you allowed your house to be used.”