A man caught tending a domestic cannabis farm claims he was merely the “gardener” and played no more significant role in the potentially lucrative illicit operation.

Rolomol Cipi was arrested at a house in Seaham, County Durham, from where 48 cannabis plants were recovered by police, on July 3.

Durham Crown Court was told the electricity meter at the property, in Alexandrina Street, was found to have been bypassed.

The 25-year-old defendant, speaking via an Albanian interpreter, admitted charges of producing a class B drug and abstraction of electricity.

Read more: Man jailed for growth of cannabis in County Durham

But after both guilty pleas he said: “I was a gardener at that house.”

He subsequently repeated the claim, leading to Judge James Adkin telling him he had the message as to the basis of plea.

Matthew Simpson, prosecuting, said he was unable to say if that basis of plea was acceptable to the Crown.

Judge Adkin asked for the defence basis of plea to be put in writing to the court within seven days, with the prosecution response a further seven days after that.

Read more: Cannabis plants were growing 'wall to wall' in two bedrooms of Thornley house

Adjourning for a potential trial of issue over the basis, Judge Adkin told the defendant: “You have now pleaded guilty, but before you are sentenced I have to decide if you were a gardener or if this was your cannabis grow.”

He remanded Cipi to remain in custody pending the trial of issue, at the court on August 17.

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