Judge vows to put anyone growing cannabis immediately behind bars

Judge Alan Goldsack
Judge Alan Goldsack
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SHEFFIELD’S top judge has issued a stark warning to anyone caught growing cannabis in South Yorkshire - immediate prison awaits.

The judge said the number of cases of production of the Class B drug was on the rise, and he was dealing with three or four at court every single day.

Many defendants were unaware they would be jailed immediately, he said - even if it was their first court appearance, they had no previous convictions, and they were growing the drug for their own use.

Judge Goldsack told one defendant: “Six out of the 14 cases on my list this morning involve producing cannabis on various scales.”

And he added a guideline case at the Court of Appeal earlier this year ruled sentences for cannabis-growing “should be higher than they had been”, and should “always result in immediate imprisonment unless there are exceptional circumstances”.

“The Court of Appeal - putting it in simple language - has said the courts have got to get tougher on this,” he said.

“Cannabis is a dangerous drug and those who bring it into existence must be punished.”

Among those jailed at Sheffield Crown Court were:

- Property developer Matthew Whitehead, aged 43, of Wightwizzle, Bradfield, Sheffield. He was jailed for three years and nine months after £94,000 worth of skunk cannabis was found in the garage loft space of the £1 million listed barn he was renovating in Cawthorne, Barnsley.

- Kevin Slater, 43, of Coltfield, Birdwell, Barnsley, who was given three years for producing cannabis, and possessing a Class C drug and cocaine with intent to supply both. His cannabis plants were found in the loft during a police raid on a property in Wisewood.

- Stuart Brown, 40, of Hay Green Lane, Birdwell, Barnsley, jailed for six months for producing eight cannabis plants with a street value of £9,140. His mother, who is suffering from a tumour in her eye and was accompanied by his elderly father, wept in the public gallery as he was sent down. The court heard Brown had lost his job at Mercedes Benz because of the court proceedings.

- Delroy Behan, 25, of Wellington Street, Goldthorpe, Barnsley, jailed for six months for cannabis production. Police found growing paraphernalia in the attic of the home he shared with partner Lisa Parton, 35, and seized five plants worth £9,070. Parton narrowly escaped custody after admitting allowing her home to be used for the production of cannabis. She was given a 26-week jail term suspended for a year and ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work.

Detective Superintendent Richard Fewkes, in charge of South Yorkshire Police’s drugs strategy, said over the last five years officers in the county had seized cannabis with a street value of over £40 million.

He said the rise in production could be linked to the downgrading of cannabis from a Class B to a Class C drug five years ago.

Warning others not to get involved in the drug’s production, he said: “A criminal conviction and jail is potentially going to ruin your life.

“It will potentially mean you lose your job and, if you are the breadwinner, that will impact on your family.

“You will find it difficult in future when you come out of prison to find a job because you have got a criminal record, particularly in the current economic climate, and there is a stigma that will remain with you for the rest of your life.”

He added: “It’s very difficult to hide the fact you are cultivating cannabis, even on a small scale. We undertake targeted operations but we are often alerted by members of the public. Neighbours might smell it or visitors might become suspicious.”