SHEFFIELD’S judges are taking a zero-tolerance approach to cannabis production after the Court of Appeal laid down new guidelines to tackle the crime.
The guidelines were issued when a group of drug-growers locked up at Sheffield Crown Court challenged their jail sentences.
Appeal Court judges reduced the men’s jail terms, but also provided new legal guidance which - according to Judge Peter Kelson QC - made clear ‘cannabis growing will not be tolerated’.
The crackdown on cannabis first started last September, when Sheffield’s most senior judge, Alan Goldsack QC, said courts had been told to ‘get tougher’ on cannabis-growing.
But in February another Sheffield judge, Michael Murphy QC, criticised new guidelines which he said did not allow him to jail Craig Cupit, aged 33, for growing cannabis in his cellar.
The judge said the guidelines ‘diluted’ court powers.
The Sentencing Council later defended the rules, saying: “We do not expect judges to be changing the way they sentence.”
Six men were later jailed by Judge Goldsack, who said he thought reducing sentences would ‘undermine public confidence’.
Then, earlier this month, five of the convicts had their jail terms reduced at the Appeal Court.
Judge Kelson said the new cases were all held back in anticipation of the ruling.
“Guidance was required from the Court of Appeal on the sentencing guidelines handed down by the Sentencing Council,” he said.
“That guidance has resolved many of the matters which were troubling the legal profession.
“The public need to understand that people who set up growing areas capable of producing repeat crops are going to be regarded by the courts as significant offenders, and they are all very likely going to go to prison - whether employed or not, a family man or not, of good character or not.”