Illegal immigrant is jailed after being caught tending a cannabis harvest in Rotherham, South Yorkshire

An illegal immigrant has been jailed after he was caught overseeing a cannabis harvest at a house in South Yorkshire.

By Jon Cooper
Thursday, 6th January 2022, 8:59 pm

Sheffield Crown Court heard on January 5 how Ardit Halilaj, aged 24, was found by police at a property on Ingshead Avenue, Rawmarsh, Rotherham, where officers also discovered 177 cannabis plants.

Charlotte Noddings, prosecuting, said: “Upon the officers approaching the property the defendant appeared from inside. He then vaulted the fence to escape from the officers.

"After a brief chase and struggle he was arrested and transferred into custody.”

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Pictured is Ardit Halilaj, aged 24, of Ingshead Avenue, Rawmarsh, Rotherham who has been sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court to two years of custody after he pleaded guilty to producing class B drug cannabis following a police visit which revealed 177 cannabis plants at his home on Ingshead Avenue.

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Ms Noddings added that police found 177 cannabis plants at the property with a sophisticated set-up including lighting and extractor fans and she described the operation as capable of producing significant quantities of drugs for commercial use.

Halilaj, of Ingshead Avenue, Rotherham, who has no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to producing the class B drug cannabis, after the police raid on July 8, 2021.

The defendant, who is from Albania, claimed he had paid £25,000 to others to help him enter the UK illegally in a lorry and said he had been told that he would be working in the construction industry to pay off his debt.

However, Halilaj claimed he was taken to the property on Ingshead Avenue by others and was told to water the cannabis plants and switch the lights on and off, and that if he did not do this his family would be harmed.

Ms Noddings said Halilaj described himself as “the gardener” and he said he was being paid £500 every two weeks.

Defence barrister Abdul Shakoor said: “He had difficult financial circumstances in Albania which led him to come to the UK. Although he did not initially appreciate he would be working in a cannabis farm.

"He expected initially to be working on a construction site doing lawful work rather than illegal work.”

Mr Shakoor added that Halilaj hopes to remain in the UK legally but that will be a matter for the immigration authorities to decide.

Recorder Kate Batty sentenced Halilaj to two years of custody and told him: “When you place yourself in debt to the tune of £25,000 to serious criminals who traffic people from country to country it cannot come as any surprise that those people may force you to do things which are criminal.”