Middle-aged cannabis growers jailed for ‘playing the system’

Cannabis leaves. Photo credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Cannabis leaves. Photo credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Three middle-aged men who took to growing cannabis to make money have been jailed.

A judge told the Hartlepool men they had tried to ‘play the system’ by not admitting their guilt, then submitting basis of pleas which were contradictory.

Judge Sean Morris asked the men to give evidence about their pleas, but they declined.

“You were given the chance to explain yourselves,” the judge told the men. “But you declined to do so.

“You must understand that if you play the system, the system will play with you.”

Prosecutor Kate Dodds told Teesside Crown Court the drug-growing conspiracy involved Christian Sharpe, Phillip Nelson, and Eric Thomson.

“Sharpe was the main conspirator,” said Ms Dodds.  

“A property linked to him was searched. The loft had been turned into a growing room, with insulation, irrigation pipes, and fans.

“In a mesh holder there was 1.4kg of cannabis with an estimated street value of £15,000.

“A computer found in Sharpe’s property in Ardrossan Road, Hartlepool,had been used to search the internet for information on growing cannabis. Documents which were found led police to properties linked to the other conspirators.”

Ms Dodds said police found cannabis grown in a house in Ridley Court, Hartlepool, and evidence of a recently abandoned grow in a third property.

“It is estimated the annual yield from the grows would have been £25,650,” added Ms Dodds.

Sharpe, of Ardrossan Road, Thomson, of Schooner Court, and Nelson, of Marske Street, all 56 years, all Hartlepool, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce a Class B drug between January and February 2016.

Lawyers for the three men said each was short of money, and had no previous convictions for drug offending.

Nelson and Thompson had only allowed Sharpe to use their premises, the court was told.

Judge Morris jailed Sharpe for nine months, and jailed Nelson and Thompson for 10 months each.

“What three late middle-aged men are doing involving themselves in growing cannabis is beyond me,” said the judge.

“Had you been straightforward with the police and admitted guilt to them, the court may have had some sympathy with you, but you ran it as far as listing a trial.

“When you get to prison, pass on the message that courts are impressed by timely guilty pleas.”