South Yorkshire has more cannabis cultivations in homes than anywhere else in the country - and sentences could be tougher, according to Sheffield’s most senior ranking judge.
Judge Alan Goldsack QC, Recorder of Sheffield, said those caught growing plants in South Yorkshire know they automatically face jail, but said the problem has become so widespread, longer sentences may be needed as a further deterrent.
Speaking as he retired from his post, Judge Goldsack, who along with other Sheffield judges automatically jail those caught growing cannabis plants, said drug gangs are now trying to spread the risk by growing plants in a number of locations instead of large-scale cannabis factories.
“In the very recent past we have seen gangs of organised criminals persuading the people who used to buy cannabis from them to set up these hydroponics outfits in their bedrooms, garages or outbuildings in return for some of their debt being written off, and this is because the drug dealers don’t want to be caught themselves. They are trying to keep one step ahead of the police, which is why we are seeing the increase in cultivations,” he added.
“Colleagues in other large cities do not appear to have as many cannabis growers as we do, why that is I don’t know, but although this is a national problem South Yorkshire does seem to have more of it.
“We are starting to see more cannabis growing and there’s a strong case for saying sentences need to be increased further.
“The police at the moment are very good at catching people producing and supplying drugs.
“It has always been a concern of judges that we don’t get the real ‘big boys’ in drug cases but over the last couple of years we have seen some very very serious players in the drugs market coming before the court and either getting convicted or pleading guilty. If they know they are looking at 30 years and that they could get a third off for pleading guilty they will plead.”
He said he deals with cannabis growers on a daily basis.
“It’s unusual for me not to have at least one cannabis grower on my court list every single day and those appearing at court know that it means jail and they all bring their overnight bags now,” he added.
Judge Goldsack said up to a half of the offences listed at court every day are linked to drugs, including, dealing or burgling to feed habits.
“If we could get on top of drugs there would be a lot of savings in terms of processing cases at court and human misery,” added the judge.
Judge Goldsack plans to continue with his role as a parole board member, deciding which criminals deserve to be released from prison.
Anyone with information about drug crime should call police on 101.