Sheffield drug growers win battle to cut jail terms

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CANNABIS growers who took on Sheffield’s most senior judge by challenging the jail terms he imposed have had their sentences reduced.

The five men were all jailed in the same afternoon by Judge Alan Goldsack QC - the Recorder of Sheffield.

He imposed prison sentences, rather than fines or community penalties, despite new sentencing guidelines which suggested low-level drugs farmers could be spared jail.

Locking the men up, Judge Goldsack said handing out reduced sentences would ‘undermine public confidence’.

He also publicly backed The Star’s campaign to stamp out cannabis-growing, saying the crime had a ‘damaging impact’ on communities.

But the convicts he jailed - who each admitted cultivating cannabis - took their cases to the Court of Appeal in London.

They argued that people who grow cannabis at home, for their own use, should be jailed only in exceptional circumstances.

And appeal court judges agreed.

They told the men - Alex McGregor, Gary Brearley, Robert James Healey, Matthew Roy Taylor and Mark Anthony Bolton - that Judge Goldsack had strayed outside the sentencing guidelines.

Lord Justice Hughes said no judge was entitled to say they accepted that cannabis was being cultivated purely for personal use ‘but then sentence on the basis there was likely to be a supply to someone else’.

McGregor, aged 24, of Oaks Fold Road, Shiregreen, Sheffield, who set up a mini-cannabis factory in his mother’s loft and grew seven plants, had his 10 month sentence reduced to eight.

Gary Brearley, 45, of Station Road, Royston, Barnsley, had his nine month jail term cut to eight. An amputee, he set up a ‘specially constructed’ room at the back of his garage and spent £600 on specialist equipment to nurture his plants.

He claimed he grew the cannabis entirely for his own use to combat pain linked to his condition.

Healey, 24, of Edward Street, Barnsley, who was found with nine plants growing in his cellar, had his nine month sentence reduced to six.

Taylor, 28, of Race Street, Barnsley, who had a purpose built growing room in his loft, had his nine month sentence cut to six.

And Bolton, 47, of Towngate, Mapplewell, Barnsley, had his sentence reduced from nine to five months.