A DOMESTIC cannabis growing operation was considered on such a scale that a judge classed it as, “a significant commercial enterprise”.

Durham Crown Court heard that £4,000-worth of equipment used for the growth of cannabis plants was found by police searching a property in Consett.

Officers executing a warrant at the address in Livingston Street recovered 53 plants which were in various states of growth in two bedrooms, in June last year.

Loading article content

John Gillette, prosecuting, said the estimated value of the seized crop, if converted into street sale values, was potentially more than £20,000.

The electricity meter was found to have been by-passed and it was estimated that more than £6,000-worth of ‘free’ power may have been abstracted.

Tenant Lee John Wall, who rented the property for £450 a month for more than five years, said he was growing the cannabis for his own use but the Crown refused to accept his explanation.

Following a trial of issue, Judge Christopher Prince ruled that it was a “commercial enterprise”, with the potential that £80,000 could have been made from the sale of the seized crop and previous yields which Wall admitted growing.

But the judge said that if cannabis had been grown at the premises from the time he began renting it, in 2008, it was estimated that it could have raised up to £400,000 in sales.

Thirty-one-year-old Wall, of Longdale Grove, St John’s Chapel, in Weardale, admitted cannabis production and abstracting electricity.

David Lamb, mitigating, said Wall, who suffers ill-health, has no previous convictions for drug offences and has never served a custodial sentence.

Passing a 21-month prison sentence, Judge Prince also ordered destruction of the seized plants and the equipment recovered in the raid.