A JUDGE wants to know how a deported illegal immigrant has been able to return to the UK and twice receive jail sentences for drug farming, without once more being expelled from the country.

Judge Ray Singh called for police to liaise with the Home Office to look into the immigration status of 41-year-old defendant Lefter Hoxha.

He made the call at Durham Crown Court as he sentenced the Albanian national to three years’ imprisonment after he admitted a charge of production of a class B drug.

The court was told Hoxha was arrested after being found hiding upstairs in a three-bedroom detached property in Ferndene Avenue, Pelton Fell, near Chester-le-Street, when police forced their way in, having received no response to their knocks, at 8.20am on December 17, last year.

Officers found 95 mature cannabis plants being grown across three bedrooms, supported by sophisticated heating and lighting systems, while a number of seedlings were located in the loft space.

James Howard, prosecuting, said police also recovered £590 from the property.

A police drug expert estimated the yield could have a sale value potential of between £85,680 and £257,040.

When interviewed, Hoxha told police he came to the UK about a year earlier.

Mr Howard said in that time the defendant received a 13-month prison sentence at Sheffield Crown Court, on March 23, last year, also for cannabis production, and was only released on licence at the mid-point, weeks before his arrest at the house in Pelton Fell.

Speaking to the unrepresented defendant, via an Albanian interpreter, Judge Singh was told Hoxha was deported for illegally entering the country, in 2017, but returned in the back of a lorry about a year before his arrest.

Hoxha said he was forced to return to repay the people smugglers by tending the cannabis farms.

Asked why he was not deported on licence release in November, Hoxha said he applied for asylum and had not undergone assessment.

Judge Singh described it as, “a convenient ploy” to ensure he remained in this country.

Having jailed Hoxha, the judge said he should be deported on his release at the mid-point of this sentence, but he added: “Frankly, I do not have confidence in the way the system is working at the moment, and that that will happen.”

He added: “I want a full explanation how it is that we’ve found ourselves in a position like this.”