A RUGBY man who operated a cannabis factory, capable of producing up to £39,000 worth of the drug, with his aunt in a rented house has been jailed.
Damon Edwards and Kerrianne Cole had both pleaded guilty to producing cannabis at the house in Thomson Close, Rugby.
Edwards entered his plea at Warwick Crown Court on the basis that it was his aunt’s operation, and that all he did was top up the electricity payment for her while she was in prison.
But that was rejected by Judge Richard Griffith-Jones after a ‘trial of issue’ earlier this month, and he jailed Edwards, 30, of Buchannan Road, Rugby, for three years.
Cole, 40, previously of Ashwood Court, Rugby, was jailed by Judge Griffith-Jones for 20 months at that earlier hearing for her part in the operation.
Prosecutor Alexandra Bull said police raided Edwards’ flat in April last year and found £3,715 in cash, digital scales, and plastic zip bags.
They also found an energy bill for a property in Thomson Close, a prepayment top-up key for the three-bedroom semi, an air filter and some piping, and a leaflet about cannabis-growing.
The police went to the house in Thomson Close, which had been rented by Cole in October 2015 on a six-month lease.
Miss Bull said the landlord had found the curtains drawn and the locks changed.
But officers got in using a key seized from Edwards, and found it had been converted into a cannabis factory, with 69 plants in various stages of growth, plus growing equipment and evidence of a previous harvest.
It was estimated that the plants would have produced cannabis with a street value of up to £39,000.
Miss Bull said a receipt was found in the house – and when the CCTV from the store was checked, it showed Edwards making the purchase.
Edwards claimed during the trial of issue, known as a ‘Newton hearing,’ that the cash seized at his home was not from drugs, but what was left from the sale of a Transit van.
And he said the keys, energy bill and top-up key had been left for him at the home of another aunt by Cole.
Edwards said she had told him she was growing some ‘weed’ there, and wanted him to top up the pre-payment electricity meter for her while she was serving a sentence for shoplifting.
He said he had done so in the meter cupboard outside the house, and denied going inside – which was rejected by the judge.
At the resumed hearing the judge said: “There has to be an element of deterrence for what is a prevalent problem.”
Mark Nicholls, defending, said Edwards had entered his guilty plea ‘at the earliest opportunity,’ but conceded he could not be given full credit for that because there had been a trial of issue.
Judge Griffith-Jones told Edwards: “You pleaded guilty a long time ago, but you pleaded guilty on an unreal basis, a false basis, and it was necessary to have a Newton hearing.
“I found against you, and in those circumstances I am not able to give you the fullest credit to which you would otherwise be entitled.
“These sort of offences are serious. A lot of money can be made from it, and it causes problems for people. You yourself have got problems, many of which may be associated with cannabis.
“It is really no good your family asking for sympathy when they know you have been making money from the supply of cannabis to people whose own health may be damaged by it.”
The judge also ordered the £3,715 seized from Edwards to be confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
After the hearing, Detective Constable Gary Hammond of Rugby Police said: “I hope this case sends a strong message to people in the Warwickshire community that we will not tolerate drug dealing and we will also not allow properties to be used for the production of cannabis.
“Thankfully, these drugs never made it onto the street and they have been destroyed.
“I would ask anyone who may know where drugs are being supplied or produced to call us as soon as possible.”