A HEAVY drug user who was kicked out by his partner secretly set up a cannabis farm in the garage of their home.
Sean Heaton even by-passed the electricity meter so his wife would not notice a huge increase in energy consumption to power the growing lights and fans he was using.
And a judge at Warwick Crown Court rejected his claim he was growing the crop – with an estimated value of up to £9,000 – only for his own use.
Despite that, Heaton, 37, of Montague Road, Rugby – who pleaded guilty to producing cannabis and abstracting electricity – escaped an immediate prison sentence.
Instead Heaton, who also admitted possessing two class C drugs, was sentenced to nine months in prison suspended for two years and was ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work and to pay £300 costs.
He had entered his plea on the basis all the cannabis was for personal use, which was not accepted by the prosecution who argued that it was for commercial supply.
Prosecutor Robert Fitt pointed out that the harvest from the 16 plants discovered growing in the garage of the martial home – at which Heaton no longer lived – would have been worth around £9,000 in street deals.
Giving evidence in a ‘trial of issue,’ Heaton said his family lived at the address, but he was living at his mother’s house because his wife had told him to go.
He explained: “The wife didn’t want me smoking there, with the kids seeing me stoned all the time.”
He said he had smoked cannabis for a number of years but could no longer afford to keep up the habit, so decided to set up the growing system in the garage.
Asked by David Everett, defending, how he managed to do so after moving out, Heaton said: “I used to go home from work and put the kids to bed and then leave.
“I got some little cuttings. I paid £5 each for them. I planted them and put them under lights in a tent and watered them. I also set up a fan in the tent to stop the smell.”
He said his wife never went into the garage and did not know what he was doing in there, adding: “That’s why I did the electric, so she wouldn’t be able to tell.”
At the time of the police raid, he had harvested the plants and intended to smoke all the cannabis himself, he claimed, denying he planned to sell any.
Rejecting Heaton’s basis of plea, Recorder Kevin Hegarty QC said: “I have considered his evidence, and I have come to the conclusion that I am satisfied this was a commercial operation.
“If it was just for himself, there would be no reason to have so many plants or such a sophisticated set-up.”
Mr Fitt said that as well as the cannabis, the police found a plastic tub containing class C drugs known as BZP and TFMPP with an estimated street value of about £5,800.
Mr Everett said there did not appear to have been any supply of cannabis by Heaton, who accepts he has a drug problem, ‘so it was nipped in the bud, if I can use that phrase.’
“His partner is very angry about him growing cannabis in the garage, and would not have anything to do with him for a while, but they are back together,” he added.
Sentencing Heaton, Recorder Hegarty told him: “You were caught red-handed in the production of cannabis, and you were using electricity you had obtained by by-passing the lawful and safe way of using it.
“I have come to the conclusion you were seeking to set yourself up by way of a commercial enterprise, not only to supply yourself but to supply others for a commercial benefit.
“You have put your family life at risk, all because of your desire for cannabis. When they grow up, what are your children to think of the fact that their father put cannabis before them?
“It merits only a custodial sentence. But, only for the fact that you are back with your family and determined to put your wife and children first, I am going to suspend it.”