A “desperate” and bankrupt builder was arrested after police found £39,000 worth of cannabis plants on his property.
Police raided the business premises of Staffordshire builder Jonathan Howcroft on April 8th. There, they found tens of thousands of pounds worth of the drugs, along with what prosecutor Jonathan Dickinson called a “sophisticated growing environment.”
“The defendant’s mobile was on the outside of the building,”, said Mr Dickinson. “Officers forced entry and found a main grow room, with 106 plants being grown and 75 harvested plants.
"There was 70.4 grammes of cannabis in an industrial grinder, six electric fans, 38 lights which were illuminated, and several water butts in operation to water the plants.
“A nursery area was found when police removed a section of partitioning. There were 98 cannabis plants and 48 remains of plants.
“There was another room, a drying room, which contained seven cannabis plants. A drying tent outside the main grow room contained 311 grammes of cannabis vegetation.
“The electricity metre had been tampered with and the electricity had been bypassed.”
Mr Howcroft, 52, was declared bankrupt in 2015. As a result, his lawyer argued, he became “open to exploitation by others.”
“Others were involved in this enterprise,” said John Williams, mitigating. “He was asked to provide the premises. In desperate times, he agreed to do that.”
Not only was Mr Howcroft’s phone number spotted on the unit in question, he was also forensically linked to the location.
Pleading guilty to both growing cannabis and abstracting electricity, Mr Howcroft was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years. He was also handed 120 hours of unpaid work.
Despite the size and value of the operation, the judge seemed to empathise with Mr Howcroft.
“This was a serious enterprise, but it was obvious that others must have been involved.
"I accept this was your premises that you allowed others to use for the production of cannabis. You were desperate financially as a result of bankruptcy.”
Mr Williams added that Mr Howcroft “is now employed and is trying to turn his life around.”