Judge rules man jailed over £162,000 cannabis conspiracy did not make money from crime

Cannabis found in the raid.
Cannabis found in the raid.

A man who allowed cannabis valued at £162,000 to be grown in vacant business units made no benefit from the enterprise, a judge ruled.

David Noble was jailed for 30 months in May of last year after he was convicted by a jury of conspiring to produce class B drugs.

David Noble.

David Noble.

Noble, 66, worked as a local manager for a Manchester-based property company which owned several business and factory units in Hartlepool.

As manager, he had access to the keys to the units and knew which ones were vacant.

He was arrested after police found 360 plants growing in a former timber yard in Brenda Road, Hartlepool.

After his conviction, prosecutors carried out a financial inquiry to see if Noble had any assets which could be seized as the proceeds of crime.

Noble’s total assets were found to be £417.56, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Tom Finch, defending, said: “Mr Noble was convicted on the basis he allowed the premises to be used for the growing of cannabis.

“He never possessed the cannabis itself, and while I make no criticism of the police, had they persisted with the surveillance operation a while longer they may have been able to discover who the grower and owner was.”

Prosecutors applied for an order that Noble, of Elwick Road, Hartlepool, benefited from crime by £162,000.

Rejecting the application, Judge Peter Armstrong said: “That benefit did not accrue to Mr Noble because he never obtained the cannabis.

“He may have benefited in some other way, but that isn’t how the case is put.

“On the evidence before me, I find there to be no benefit from crime.”

The judge made an order for costs against Noble of £417.56.

Also before the court was co-defendant Jamie Wharton.

He was sentenced to nine months in prison at the same time as Noble for his part in the conspiracy.

The court heard police seized £11,225 in cash from Wharton’s home when he was arrested.

Prosecutors applied for an order to confiscate the money because it was acquired in the course of criminal activity.

Wharton told the court the money had come from the sale of a Range Rover, and he had built up the money to buy the Ranger Rover by ‘trading up’ his works vans over the years.

Wharton produced a copy of an internet advertisement for the Ranger Rover, and a statement from a local farmer to say he had paid £10,400 for it.

“The rest of the money the police seized was birthday money given to my children,” said Wharton.

“I didn’t make anything from the cannabis, all I did was give one of the others a lift to the units three times.

“They were going to give me fifty quids’ worth of cannabis for my own use, but the place was raided before I got it.”

Prosecutor Tim Capstick put it to Wharton both the Inland Revenue and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs had no record of him declaring any income in the last six years.

“I do casual building work,” Wharton replied. “I don’t have a bank account, and I don’t earn a great deal of money.

“I make enough for myself to get by, my partner works as well.”

Judge Armstrong said he had to consider if Wharton’s story was true ‘on the balance of probabilities’.

“It seems to me his account is believable,” said the judge. “He may well have been under the radar of the tax authorities, and I am satisfied the copy of the internet advertisement and the statement of the farmer who bought the Range Rover is genuine.

“Accordingly, on the evidence before me, I find Mr Wharton’s benefit from crime to be £50.”

Wharton, 40, of Crimdon House Farm Cottages, Crimdon, was ordered to pay £50 as the benefit of crime, and £500 costs.

The balance of the money seized by police will be returned to him.