POLICE called to a report of domestic violence at a residential address came across an established cannabis farm when they visited the property.

A court was told it was the second time Joseph Philip Barton has faced criminal prosecution for drug offences arising from police attending a report of an alleged domestic incident.

The 26-year-old defendant was before Durham Crown Court for sentence after admitting a charge of production of the class B drug, cannabis, at a magistrates’ hearing, last month.

Robin Patton, prosecuting, said: “It came to light in the same way as a previous offence came to police attention for him, when officers go to his home to deal with domestic issues.”

Mr Patton said police responded to a call to an address in Queen Street, Grange Villa, near Chester-le-Street, on November 1, last year.

Having checked the domestic complaint, the officers found a sophisticated hydroponic cannabis growing operation with 21 “thriving” cannabis plants.

The plants were seized and an expert officer’s assessment valued them at between £5,000 and £17,640 in street sale terms.

But the court was told drug production offences go up the sentencing scale when 28 plants and above are recovered, implying a commercial element.

In this case the figure was 21 and it was accepted no-one else was involved in the operation.

Mr Patton said Barton, now of Radcliffe Street, in Birtley, near Chester-le-Street, has a previous drug offence, of possession of cocaine, from 2015, which arose after police responded to a report of criminal damage within a domestic situation.

Mark Harrison, for Barton, said this offence came to police attention in November last year and pre-dates a subsequent custodial sentence he has received for domestic-related offending, committed in January this year.

“The cannabis farm was discovered and dismantled before that offence.

“He was interviewed at the time and made full admissions, but it appears to have taken almost a full calendar year to come to a conclusion.

“The seized plants and the growing equipment, which he purchased for as little as £150, will be forfeited and destroyed.

“On the one hand it’s said to be a well-equipped set-up, but it didn’t require a lot of funding or attention, or a lot of expertise to establish.

“The cannabis was for his own ‘misuse’ and there were no further hallmarks of it being for commercial supply, like dealers’ lists, volume of cash recovered.

“Police, in reality, were called to deal with other matters and all we can say is that this was a relatively new venture on his behalf and one for which he didn’t expect to make any great financial gain.”

Mr Harrison said Barton was only released from his other sentence on June 8 and will remain subject of licence supervision until late July next year.

Judge James Adkin imposed a four month prison sentence, suspended for a year, with a two-month 7pm to 7am home curfew.