A MAN said to have the know-how to operate a cannabis farm was found with a far less experienced alleged accomplice, when police raided a boarded-up property.

Executing a search at the mid-terrace address in Wood Street, Spennymoor, on January 27, police found Hoa Dinh Ha, 31, present, with a younger Vietnamese compatriot.

Durham Crown Court heard officers recovered about 200 plants in various stages of growth from two rooms, plus items of growing paraphernalia.

Deborah Smithies, prosecuting, said the electricity meter was tampered with, to provide free power supply.

Miss Smithies said the Home Office was inquiring whether the younger Vietnamese man was the victim of human trafficking.

Ha, now 32, who the court was told has no status to remain in this country, admitted producing the class B drug and appeared on his own for the sentencing hearing via a video link from nearby Durham Prison.

Although Shaun Dryden, for Ha, suggested he may have played more of ‘gardening’ role in the operation, Judge Ray Singh told the defendant: “More precise information was found on your mobile phone.

“You were saying how many plants could be grown, discussing the installation of equipment and the like, all related to the nurturing of hundreds of plants and stems, and you confirmed the electricity was bypassed.

“You were not a mere gardener, but someone with an integral knowledge of cannabis and a fully-fledged organiser of this production of a significant quantity for commercial sale.

“You have previous convictions of a like nature, seriously aggravating this.”

Imposing a 40-month prison sentence, Judge Singh told Ha he would serve half in prison and then it is likely that he will be deported back to Vietnam.