Sheffield drugs raid drama

Julia Rawson from Richmond.
Julia Rawson from Richmond.
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Police raided the home of a disabled spinster on an anonymous tip-off - and discovered 21 cannabis plants growing in a bedroom.

Curly-haired bespectacled Julia Rawson, who walks with a stick, had cannabis seedlings germinating in her house, as well as cannabis she says she used in cooking to alleviate pain from a brain tumour.

She pleaded guilty at court to being concerned in the production of cannabis, and received a nine-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months.

But now the 59-year-old is locked in a bitter legal dispute with South Yorkshire Police, claiming officers caused £30,000 of damage while searching her semi.

Police - who deny any wrongdoing - acted on a tip-off to Crimestoppers that Ms Rawson, who lives alone, was an unlikely gun-runner trying to sell a cache of four handguns and ammunition.

When officers raided her home on Carpenter Croft, Intake, Sheffield, they found no handguns - but instead discovered a factory of cannabis plants germinating in a bedroom.

If fully grown the plants could have yielded drugs with a street value of £21,000.

But Ms Rawson claims the presence of cannabis plants did not justify the actions of police officers, who she says ‘trashed’ her property - ripping out her bath and toilet, causing her home to flood and ceilings to collapse.

She says 16 officers ransacked her home, destroying furniture and smashing ornaments, in their fruitless search for firearms.

“They completely wrecked my house – they were throwing things out of upstairs windows, smashing ornaments to make sure nothing was hidden inside, and they removed the bath and toilet without turning off the water, so the place flooded and the ceilings came down,” she said.

“I lost everything – they put their feet through my sofas, they had no respect for anything.”

Ms Rawson was left with a repair bill for thousands.

“I had a brain tumour at the time and still do, and this has made me very ill,” said Ms Rawson, who says she has suffered a nervous breakdown since the raid.

“If they had checked out their so-called intelligence first, they would have realised I have never been in trouble with the police before - and I am certainly not a firearms dealer.”

Ms Rawson, who now lives in Richmond, has taken her case to court, claiming officers ‘mishandled’ her property and were ‘impolite’ and ‘intolerant’.

In papers supplied to county court, she describes the officers involved in the raid as ‘pack animals’.

South Yorkshire Police denies liability.

A spokesman said: “Civil proceedings brought by Ms Rawson are ongoing and the force denies liability.

“South Yorkshire Police and the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner have written to Ms Rawson on several occasions following her complaint about the search, executed in September 2012.

“Ms Rawson’s complaint is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Force’s Professional Standards Department.”