A FATHER and son who claim to be have been coerced into growing cannabis plants to pay for the son’s drug debt have escaped a jail sentence.

The pair were arrested when police passing the father’s house in Hargill Road, Howden-le-Wear, recognised the distinctive smell of cannabis and knocked on the door, Durham Crown Court was told.

Alexander Douglas, 56 and his son Carl, 24, immediately confessed to the offence, though both insisted that the other had nothing to do with it.

Loading article content

Liam O’Brien, prosecuting, said 20 cannabis plants with a yield of 191g were seized, along with 345 grams of the drug in dried form, as well as several lamps, transformers and a hand book entitled A Grower’s Guide to Cannabis.

John Turner, mitigating, said the son began to use cocaine after the death of his partner and after his four step-children returned to live with their natural father. Unable to pay off his drug debt of around £3,000, he went into hiding, the court heard.

Mr Turner said the son had been through “an enforced period of drug rehab for three months,” as he was too afraid to contact anyone, let alone buy any.

However his debtors soon tracked down his father and demanded he pay.

They offered to write off the debt if the father agreed to grow and tend to a number of cannabis plants in his own home, which they would return for at a later date.

Mr Turner said the father reluctantly agreed and grew the drugs which the son tended to jointly until police happened across the house. The father and his son of School Street, Howden-le-Wear pleaded guilty to producing a Class B drug.

Recorder Ian Atherton sentenced the son to eight months in jail suspended for 12 months and ordered him to do 60 hours unpaid work.

The father was sentenced to 10 months, suspended for 18 months, due to a previous conviction of possession of cannabis with intent to supply in 2004.

Both were ordered to pay £100 in costs.