A man tending a residential cannabis farm tried to flee via the back door as police entered at the front of the premises.

Durham Crown Court heard that officers armed with a search warrant called at the address in Salisbury Place, Bishop Auckland, at 9am on August 16.

An officer used a drill to force open the front door, but the only occupant, Gezim Allsufi, left via the back door.

The Northern Echo: Cannabis farmer Gezim Allsufi fled via the back door as entered the fromt of the raided property in

Martin Towers, prosecuting, said Allsufi was arrested as he was using his phone in the rear yard.

On a search of the premises four rooms were being used for the growth of cannabis, with the electricity meter bypassed to allow free use of power.

Officers found 51 immature and 90 juvenile plants with a potential value upon harvest at maturity of up to £71,000 in wholesale terms.

Read more: Police seize cannabis plants at Bishop Auckland address

The court heard the equipment assisting their growth would have cost an estimated £7,000 if bought new, and expert opinion was that those involved in the grow had a level of expertise.

Mr Towers said the defendant, an Albanian national who is in this country illegally, would have had knowledge of the extent of the operation and, therefore, is considered to have played, “a significant role”.

The 20-year-old defendant, who was assisted by an Albanian interpreter during the hearing, admitted a single count of producing a class B drug.

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Michael Cahill, in mitigation, told the hearing: “This is a situation which, unfortunately, the courts are becoming all too familiar with.

“The defendant is only 20 and came to this country illegally seeking to earn a legitimate living, but, of course, he found that was not possible.

“He, therefore, took the opportunity offered to tend this cannabis grow.

“He was provided with lodgings in the property, his food was provided for him and he expected to make a few hundred pounds on conclusion of the cannabis grow.

“He was, in my submission, performing a limited role in looking after that cannabis grow.

“It’s almost inevitable that those further up the chain don’t want to be associated too closely to the cannabis grow.

“But, it’s clear he didn’t have any influence on those above him.

“While he entered into that role knowing what he was doing, I would submit there was a level of immaturity, given his age.

“He knows the likely outcome will be deportation, with any further issues in that regard being a matter for the immigration authorities.”

Judge Jo Kidd said the defendant was involved in, “a sophisticated and potentially large cultivation of cannabis, from which he would expect some payment.”

Read next:

Cannabis plants found in former Bishop Auckland church

Police raid Bishop Auckland address and seize large cannabis grow

Durham Police seize hundreds of cannabis plants in Bishop Auckland

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She said in her view his role “straddled” what can be considered to be “significant” and “lesser” categories.

Imposing a 24-month prison sentence, Judge Kidd said the defendant should expect to serve up to half in custody before being eligible for release, but she expected he would then be deported.

She also ordered forfeiture and destruction of the plants and equipment recovered from the house.