A man brought to this country illegally was placed in a domestic cannabis farm set-up to care for the plants to help to repay his debt to his traffickers.

Visar Vercani was arrested when police executed a search warrant at an address in Station Road West, Trimdon Station, on June 24.

Durham Crown Court was told police recovered 145 healthy plants in various stage of growth from several rooms.

Heat lamps and fans were fitted in each growing room, with the electricity meter bypassed allowing free power for the operation.

Read more: Jailed cannabis farmer said he was acting under orders tending grow in Seaham

Philip Morley, prosecuting, said Vercani, who is originally from Albania, told police he was brought to this country illegally after his asylum application failed.

He was placed in the property at Trimdon Station and told to care for the plants, being ‘paid’ £100 every couple of weeks to cover his living expenses.

Mr Morley said Vercani told officers the growing equipment was already in place when he arrived at the address.

The 23-year-old defendant, who has no criminal record in this country, admitted producing a class B drug at an earlier hearing.

Jane Waugh, in mitigation, said Vercani made immediate admissions to police when interviewed.

She told the court he was working to pay off a £21,000 debt he was told that he owed those who brought him to this country.

“He’s somebody who has never been in trouble with the police before and has learned his lesson.

“He won’t trouble the courts again.”

Read more: Albanian cannabis farmer jailed for looking after £84,000 of the drug

She said he has been on remand in Durham Prison for two months since his arrest and has been working in the kitchens, while undertaking educational courses that are available.

Judge James Adkin said the defendant appeared to be overseeing an “elaborate” set-up, using equipment which would have cost, “a fortune”.

“These plants were in an impeccable condition and were worth a great deal of money.

“It’s agreed this operation was capable of producing significant quantities of cannabis for commercial use.

“You were the only farmer and had a critical role in gardening and tending the crop.”

Imposing a 12-month prison sentence, Judge Adkin told Vercani that he would serve half of that before being deported back to Albania.

The judge also ordered forfeiture and destruction of the cannabis plants and growing equipment.

Read next:

               Pair were dismantling cannabis farm when Durham Police raided premises

               Cannabis 'gardener' fled house in County Durham when police raided

               Consett: Albanian men jailed after second arrest in two years for growing cannabis

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