A man found in a house being used for the growth of an extensive cannabis crop, has denied being involved in the cultivation of the plants.

Luan Todaj was the only person in the property in Dent Street, Bishop Auckland, when police armed with a search warrant forced entry on Friday February 2.

The 28-year-old Albanian national was arrested on suspicion of cannabis cultivation and abstraction of electricity, as the meter in the property had been bypassed, giving those growing the plants free power supply.

Officers found 116 cannabis plants in various stages of growth, with those more mature in one room and seedlings/junior plants in another.

The Northern Echo: Police found 116 cannabis plants.Police found 116 cannabis plants. (Image: Durham Constabulary)


The plants were seized, as were the various items heating, lighting and watering equipment being used to aid their growth.

Todaj appeared at a plea hearing at Durham Crown Court on Friday (March 1), via video link from the city’s nearby prison.

Assisted by an Albanian interpreter, he denied charges of both producing and being concerned in the production of a class B drug, cannabis, plus a single count of abstracting electricity.

The Northern Echo:

Judge Nathan Adams asked if the defendant was at the premises at the time of the police search.

Peter Sabiston, for the prosecution, said he was the only person present at the time.

The judge asked counsel for Todaj, Michele Turner, what his defence is to those charges.

Miss Turner replied: “The defendant’s position is that he was contracted only to repair the property and he had nothing to do with the plants or their cultivation, in any way.”

Asked by the judge what type of repairs does the defendant claim he was performing.

The Northern Echo: Police raided a property.Police raided a property. (Image: Durham Constabulary)

Miss Turner replied: “Essentially where damage had been caused to the property from the cannabis grow.

“It was his responsibility to put that right.”

Miss Turner added that the defendant has been “fully advised” as to credit for guilty pleas available in court sentencing.

Asked about the defendant’s immigration status, Miss Turner said it is the subject of investigation, while Mr Sabiston added that there appear to be, “immigration issues.”

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A timetable was set for the case to go to trial, on one-day plus, to start at the court on July 15.

He was advised that he must submit a signed defence statement, outlining his case, to be served by April 2 this year.

Judge Adams remanded the defendant to remain custody pending the start of the trial.