Barnsley drug dealers wins reduction in length of his sentence

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A South Yorkshire Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator who led a secret double life as a criminal at the centre of a drugs conspiracy has won a cut in his prison sentence.

Mark Smith, aged 27, who owned a string of buy-to-let properties, used three houses for cultivating cannabis while maintaining a facade of good citizenship by setting up a Neighbourhood Watch scheme on the estate where he lived.

Smith, of Town End, Barnsley, was jailed for five years at Sheffield Crown Court after being convicted of conspiracy to produce cannabis in April.

However, he challenged the length of the sentence imposed and had it reduced by a year.

The Court of Appeal heard that, as well as his own house, Smith owned three other properties, one of which, in Wakefield Road, was ‘wholly given over to the production of cannabis’.

Police found £116,000 worth of the drug drying in the house, while smaller amounts were uncovered in his other two properties.

Smith claimed the Wakefield Road house had been rented from him by an Asian doctor who had subsequently disappeared – but that claim was proved bogus by police investigations.

His lawyers argued the positive aspects of his character ought to have led to a shorter sentence.

Mrs Justice Swift said: “He and his partner were responsible for setting up the Neighbourhood Watch scheme on the estate where he lived.

“His references contrast starkly with the criminal conduct he committed.

“This was a cannabis factory with sophisticated hydroponics systems.

“His crimes were aggravated by the fact he told police the house was let to a man who turned out to be fictitious.”