THE number of people growing cannabis in South Yorkshire has been branded ‘quite astounding’ by a top Sheffield judge.
Judge Michael Murphy QC was speaking as he jailed two men - neither with any previous criminal convictions - for six months each after they were caught growing cannabis plants with a street value of £14,000.
Anthony Horton, a dad-of-three aged 35, from Farrier Gate, High Green, Sheffield, and Jamie Caudwell, 25, of Vernon Road, Broom, Rotherham, were both caught after police raided industrial premises in South Yorkshire which were being used by the two to grow cannabis plants.
Defending both men, Judith Seabourne told Sheffield Crown Court that cannabis production in the county has reached ‘epidemic proportions’.
And Judge Murphy revealed a staggering two thirds of the cases on his list for the morning court session involved production of the Class B drug.
He added: “A significant number of those defendants suffer low mood and depression - the sort of things those of us in this court from day to day recognise as cannabis symptoms.”
And he said people who self medicate depression with cannabis can actually make their conditions worse, not better.
Sentencing the men, Judge Murphy said such cases were a ‘great tragedy’.
He said: “The prevalence of this offending in South Yorkshire is quite astounding.
“I do not accept, particularly after the publicity given to these offences in recent times, that people do not know how serious it is.
“This cannot go unpunished. People must realise this is a serious crime. It would be a disaster to think that your families, and in future your children, could become involved with drugs.
“The more the use of cannabis is tolerated, the more risk there’s going to be for the future.”
Susan Evans, prosecuting, said the men were both caught after police raided industrial premises owned by Horton’s boss. He had allowed Horton to store tools and equipment there in return for him carrying out jobs.
Miss Evans said: “Horton had access to the unit to store his tools.
“They used cannabis and decided to grow it for their own use because it was becoming expensive. They bought the equipment from someone in the pub.”
Miss Evans said when Horton’s boss discovered they were growing cannabis he told them to get rid of it - but the premises was raided by police before they had a chance.
Officers discovered 14 plants yielding 4.4kg of cannabis with an estimated street value of £14,000.
Miss Seabourne said Horton suffered from low moods, while Caudwell’s drinking and cannabis use had escalated following the death of his mother from Alzheimer’s Disease.
Judge Murphy told the pair: “You are decent family men. You should not be before a crown court. But I have a public duty to perform to make it absolutely clear that production of cannabis in this county or anywhere else will not be tolerated. There have to be immediate sentences of custody.”
n IN A separate case Malcolm Robert Ardron, 52, of Newmarch Street, Tinsley, was jailed for eight months for producing cannabis.
And in Chesterfield a man has been jailed for two years for growing cannabis in a disused factory. Duc Hoang was arrested after police were called to a derelict factory in Foundry Lane, in October.
Officers found the 34-year-old inside with more than 100 cannabis plants at various stages of growth.
Hoang, of no fixed abode, admitted the production of cannabis.