A BUILDER who turned to growing cannabis due to a down-turn in business was today (Wednesday March 19) handed a court confiscation bill of more than £25,000.

Michael Robins was found to be cultivating 101 cannabis plants when police raided his home and a small rented factory unit, both in Consett, County Durham, in January last year.

Durham Crown Court was told 54 plants were found at his sparsely furnished house, while a further 47 were recovered from the unit, on Derwentdale Industrial Estate.

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Robins pleaded guilty to two counts of producing a class B drug when he appeared at the court last September and was given a two-year jail sentence, suspended for two years.

He was also ordered to perform 200-hours’ unpaid work and fined £100.

The court was told he had been placed under pressure to repay debts.

Inquiries have since taken place under the Proceeds of Crime Act into Robins’ financial status.

Following discussions between police investigators, prosecution counsel Katy Rafter and defence barrister Lewis Kerr, it was agreed that the 53-year-old former serviceman, of Berry Edge Road, benefited by £25,614 from his illegal activities.

The amount said to be available for confiscation was put at £25,610, a shortfall of only £4.

Judge Robert Adams, therefore, made a confiscation order in the sum of £25,610 and gave Robins six months to pay or face up to 13 months in custody in default.