A MAN who operated a flourishing cannabis farm in a disused church has been given a three-month time extension to meet a crime proceeds confiscation order.

It was made against Paul McAllister at Durham Crown Court on December 22, when it was agreed he benefited from his crime by £281,343.

The available amount for confiscation was put at £59,790 and he was given three months to pay or risk a further 18-months behind bars, on top of the 32-months he was sentenced to, at the court last July.

But his case was mentioned again yesterday as the £59,790 has yet to be paid.

Ian West, for the Crown, told Judge Ray Singh: “We are now beyond that time limit, but I can confirm the defence has been proactive in their efforts and consequently I’ve been told to offer no opposition to an extension.”

Judge Singh agreed to extend the deadline for payment to June 22 but said there can be no further extensions beyond then.

Mr West said: “It will be just a question of enforcement proceedings after June 22 as the crown court will have no jurisdiction after that.”

But, the 18-month custodial default period also remains hanging over McAllister.

The now 44-year-old electrician, from Oldham in Greater Manchester, admitted producing cannabis and abstracting electricity.

It followed the police discovery of the active cannabis operation at the former Methodist Church, in Dodds Terrace, Wheatley Hill, on May 20, last year.

Officers involved in the inquiry believed there were plans to extend the growth areas, with new lighting and watering equipment just removed from packaging.

McAllister was found hiding in the roof space.

The court heard there were 72 mature cannabis plants and 99 pots containing stalks, in the ground floor area, which were fitted with lighting, extractor fans, transformers and cooling fans.

A further 70 plants in varying stages of growth were found in the first-floor area with 61 mature plants being hung up to dry.

There were also eight kilograms of cannabis flowering material found in a cardboard box alongside 14 plastic bags each containing a kilo of dried cannabis.

The prosecution said it appeared to be, “a large-scale commercial cultivation”, with potential for three crops a year to be bagged for bulk distribution to mid-level dealers, with a potential value for the seized cannabis as s high as £287,000.