A man with an address in London has admitted being the “gardener” at a cannabis farm in a disused factory in a County Durham village.

Alvaro Kola was found near the former metallic business premises on the Hobson Industrial Estate, at Burnopfield, near Stanley, when police visited it, on January 31, last year.

He was arrested after officers uncovered a grow of between 130 and 140 cannabis plants inside the former factory.

The 36-year-old defendant, of south London, was charged with being concerned in the production of a class B drug.

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Appearing at a plea hearing at Durham Crown Court, Kola, assisted by an Albanian interpreter, admitted the charge.

But his counsel, Vic Laffey, said his client’s admission was made on the basis that he acted only as, “a gardener” in the cannabis growing operation.

“Those are my instructions. He is in this country legally, married with two very small children.”

Liam O’Brien, prosecuting, said he would have to seek instruction as to whether the basis of plea was accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service case reviewing lawyer.

Judge Jo Kidd said the full defence case needs to be submitted to the court by July 18, with the prosecution response made by a week later.

“We’ll know of the prosecution stance by July 25 and then if it’s to be a straightforward sentencing exercise or not.”

Read more: Drug dealer jailed for cannabis farm on Rennie Street in Ferryhill

She said an hour should be set aside for the next hearing, next month, but if the Crown accepts the defendant’s basis of plea, only half an hour would be needed.

Addressing Kola, via the interpreter, Judge Kidd said: “You will need to come back to this court on August 8 for a short hearing.

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"That will be to decide what your role was in this drugs enterprise and then we’ll proceed to sentence.”

She granted bail to Kola, on the basis he observes an electronically-monitored 10pm to 6am home curfew, on Corlis Road, Wandsworth, prior to the August 8 sentencing hearing.

Judge Kidd warned the defendant that failure to attend for that hearing would be a separate criminal offence.