SOPHISTICATED cannabis growing farms have been found in police raids on two homes.

Officers found growing facilities in a bedroom in a house in Eastfields, South Stanley, County Durham, on March 30 last year.

Durham Crown Court was told that 24 mature skunk cannabis plants were found in the room, which was fitted with a hydroponic lighting, heating and irrigation system.

Ros Scott-Bell, prosecuting, said the plants appeared to have been harvested recently, as they were hanging up drying after being cut.

Householder David Mills was arrested and admitted growing the plants from seed and nurturing them by regularly feeding and watering them.

But Mills claimed the plants were intended for his own use as they offered him respite from asthma and depression.

He said he bought the seeds from a magazine and equipped the room at a cost of about £1,000 ten weeks earlier.

Later the same day, the officers raided the home of Paul Alistair Thurnham, in Windermere Terrace, in nearby South Moor, where they recovered 21 2in-high cannabis plant seedlings from an attic propagation unit.

Miss Scott-Bell said charts marked eight weeks growth, with instructions on how much to feed and water the plants.

While police put the street value of the possible yield as high as £21,000, Miss Scott-Bell accepted Thurnham's claim that it was probably nearer £7,000, although he denied any intention to sell.

Eighty pages of instructions for growing cannabis were also recovered in the raid, all of which Thurnham said was downloaded from his children's computer.

Mills, 32, and Thurnham, 31, both admitted producing cannabis.

Barristers for the men said neither had any previous convictions and both were growing the cannabis for their own use. Judge Richard Lowden described the operation as sophisticated, with both having gone to a lot of trouble and effort to produce the drugs.

He decided against imposing jail sentences as both were of previous good character and he accepted their claims that the drugs were for their own use.

Mills was fined £400 and Thurnham, now living in West Bridgeford, Nottingham, was ordered to carry out 180-hours community punishment work.

Both were also ordered to pay £150 costs.

The judge ordered that the growing equipment be confiscated.