A CANNABIS farm found in a Rugby house rented to grow the drug was for the owner’s personal use, a judge has accepted – because there was no prosecution evidence to disprove it.
John Franklin had pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to producing cannabis at the house in London Road, Stretton-on-Dunsmore, and unlawfully abstracting electricity there.
He entered his plea on the basis that he was growing the crop for personal use and not for any commercial basis, which was not accepted by the prosecution.
It had been alleged there were as many as 180 plants, but after hearing evidence during a ‘trial of issue,’ Judge Sylvia de Bertodano said she would deal with him on his basis of plea.
Franklin, 43, of Hillside, Hartshill, Nuneaton, was given a community order with supervision for 18 months.
Prosecutor Nicholas Berry said that in August last year Western Power Distribution officials found a cannabis factory at the London Road house while inspecting the meter.
They notified police, who found two large ventilated growing tents in the house with cultivation equipment in them.
There was a large ‘mother plant’ in one of the tents and trays containing a large number of small plants in the other, although Mr Berry said it was not clear exactly how many.
He pointed out that PC Karen McClay had described there being approximately 150 plants, although it was not clear what number a drugs expert had based an estimated yield on.
And the original charge sheet referred to 179 seedlings plus the mother plant.
Mr Berry added that a horse box outside had been converted to be used for growing cannabis, although it was not clear whether there were any plants in it.
Giving evidence, PC McClay was asked to recount what she saw when she and other officers went into the house, but she replied: “I can’t recall from memory.”
She was asked to look at her written statement and Mr Berry, who said her note had described around 150 seedlings, asked whether she had counted them – but she said she had not.
PC McClay said they had been counted by PC Holly Byrne who had ‘mentioned how many.’
Asked whether the plants were in one or more trays, she said she could not remember, and when she was asked about the upstairs rooms, the officer said: “There was growing equipment, but I can’t remember whether there were any plants or not.”
Mr Berry observed that in her statement she had said there were no plants, just cuttings and other paraphernalia, and he asked what she meant by that. PC McClay replied: “Plants that had been cut up.”
She added that when she looked in the horse box she saw it had been lined with silver foil and there were pots and other equipment, but it had not been set up.
No other officer was called to give evidence, and Judge de Bertodano said: “No-one has done a proper count and logged it. This officer didn’t count them and could only go on what she was told.
“It doesn’t seem to me there is any evidence before the court on which the prosecution can substantiate their case. I am prepared to accept the defendant’s explanation.”
Michael Grey, defending, said Franklin had been a serious abuser of heroin for many years until he came off it; but he was using cannabis on a heavy basis, getting through about half an ounce a day.
“He is stopping, but it would not be fair to the court to say he’s stopped completely.”
Sentencing Franklin, the judge told him: “I accept that this was cannabis you were cultivating for your own use.
“The difficulty is, if you keep taking cannabis you’re going to keep getting into trouble.”