TWO men were caught tending a large-scale domestic cannabis farm less than two years after being arrested for similar activity.

Mirush Kula and fellow Albanian national Sami Lame were present when police, armed with a drug warrant, raided a flat above a pub in Trafalgar Street, Consett, on March 24.

Durham Crown Court was told Lame was found hiding in the loft, where he was shaking when police detained him.

Robin Turton, prosecuting, said the officers recovered 248 cannabis plants with a potential yield of up to 21-kilograms, and capable of raising between £70,000 and £210,000 in street sale values.

Both men were arrested and admitted producing cannabis, in Lame’s he said he had only been at the address having arrived in the North East five days earlier.

Mr Turton said Lame received a nine-month prison sentence for producing cannabis at Nottingham Crown Court last year and was only released in February this year.

At the time of his arrest in Consett, Kula was under investigation for his role tending a cannabis grow in a residential street in Luton, Bedfordshire, from where police recovered 122 plants in November 2020.

Both 36-year-old Kula, of no fixed abode, and his 25-year-old co-accused, of Bedford, admitted the latest offence of producing cannabis.

Kula admitted a similar charge relating to the Luton cannabis farm.

Read more: Raided County Durham cannabis farms had £2m annual turnover

Lewis Kerr, for Kula, said his function was limited to caring for the plants by watering them and had no “operational or management” role in the operation.

Mr Kerr said the defendant, who cannot read or write, has been in the UK illegally for the last two years, having come here in an attempt to earn money by doing domestic labouring repair jobs or working in construction, to provide for his children and family in Albania.

Shortly after his arrival in the UK the pandemic struck and work dried up, leading him to be drawn into “criminal work”.

Mr Kerr added that the defendant expects to be deported on completing his prison sentence.

Helen Towers, for Lame, said his role in the operation was as, “a caretaker”.

She said after his release from prison in February he was held in a Home Office detention centre for asylum seekers, while his claim was assessed.

Miss Towers said on his release from that detention centre in early March he was living in Bedford where he was approached by two men offering him manual labour work.

These were the two men who brought him to Consett days before his arrest.

Miss Towers said Lame’s family has left Albania and now live in Italy, where his wife looks after his terminally-ill mother.

Judge Ray Singh said both were playing a role in a “significant” cannabis grow, in both cases their second such involvement in under two years, expecting to receive financial reward.

Imposing 20-month prison sentences on both, Judge Singh said Kula faces deportation on his release at the mid-point in the sentence, while Lame would have to await the outcome of the Home Office inquiries into his asylum status.

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