THE crackdown on cannabis-growing continues at Sheffield Crown Court - with more criminals convicted and a judge maintaining a zero-tolerance approach.
Judge Peter Kelson QC yesterday jailed 11 people, and issued four others with suspended prison terms and community orders, during one of the biggest clampdowns on cannabis production Sheffield has ever seen.
Three days of special hearings conclude today, scheduled following new legal guidance issued by Court of Appeal judges.
“The guidelines have been laid down to send out the message that cannabis growing will not be tolerated,” said Judge Kelson.
The convicts included Glenn Nicholls, aged 51, who grew more than £26,000 of cannabis in his loft.
He admitted producing 2.5kg of the drug, possessing cannabis with intent to supply, and tampering with an electricity meter to power his plant-growing equipment.
Businessman Terence Burke, 58, also used his attic to grow more than two kilos of cannabis, which could have had a street value of up to £54,000.
Burke, who ran a kitchen-fitting firm, was a ‘sophisticated and professional’ cannabis-grower, the court heard - but claimed he simply made cakes from which to consume the drug.
Father and son Stephen and Jack Guest admitted producing cannabis after eight plants were found growing in their attic. The drug’s street value was up to £4,500, and 18-year-old engineering student Jack also shared the cannabis with his friends.
Stephen was the main safety officer for a team of scaffolders, the court heard. Jack was sentenced to 150 hours of unpaid work.
Lorry driver Martin Arundel, 48, grew 27 cannabis plants in a back bedroom, and claimed he used the drug to tackle chronic depression.
Mark Whitehead, 33, produced 16 plants in a bedroom, and said it was all for personal use - despite working with heavy machinery and enjoying hobbies including mountaineering and rock climbing.
Raymond Allen, 48, was caught growing 11 plants only when a fire broke out at his next-door neighbour’s house. He said he used the drug to make herbal tea.
Mark Lindley, 44, who ran a hardware shop, grew £3,200 worth of cannabis in a house he was renovating for his daughter. He also admitted possessing cocaine which he said he took to ‘liven himself up’.
Sherilyn Wood, a 19-year-old call centre worker, wept in the dock as she was jailed for growing 16 plants in her bedroom.
Stephen Pearson, 28, also admitted growing 11 plants in two tents in his house.
Christopher Womack, 25, produced 33 cannabis plants, which would have produced £13,160 of the drug.
Neil Noble, 42, admitted growing up to £4,000 of cannabis, as well as possessing cocaine, mephedrone and ketamine.
Karl Hopper, 25, of Norman Street, Thurnscoe, Rotherham, was spared a jail term for growing eight large plants in a bedroom. The court heard he cared for his ill wife, and he was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment suspended for two years, with 150 hours’ unpaid work.
Gavin Perry, 28, admitted being concerned in the production of cannabis after he grew 20 plants, up to £9,800 worth of drugs. In doing so, the heavy drinker breached a community order imposed for kicking a nurse at the Northern General Hospital.
Richard Prince, 35, who had a £30-per-day cannabis habit, admitted possessing and producing the Class B drug by acting as a ‘gardener’ at a property dedicated to growing the plant on Lister Street, Clifton, Rotherham.
Unless stated, the defendants all admitted producing cannabis.