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Gloucestershire Business News

Cannabis factory found in a Cotswold industrial estate

Two West Midlands men caught running a cannabis factory on a small industrial estate in a Cotswold village have avoided jail because of the delay in bringing the case to court.

Calvin Campbell, 26, of Mullett Street, Brierley Hill and Jake Evans, 26 of Ragees Road, Kingswinford, were each sentenced on Monday (May 22) to 16 months prison suspended for two years and ordered to do 180 hours of unpaid work.

Prosecutor Edward Hollingsworth told Gloucester Crown Court that the pair set up the cannabis operation after getting into financial difficulties with a legitimate company they were running at a business unit in Blockley, Gloucestershire.

On February 22, 2021, Western Power were informed by other occupants of the Northwick Park Business Centre in Blockley of a fault to their power supply, said the prosecutor.

He told the court that an engineer was sent to resolve the problem at the rear of Unit 74, which was being leased by Cotswolds Window Tinting Ltd - a company run by Campbell and Evans since July 2020.

Mr Hollingsworth said: "The engineer discovered that the unit was locked and unoccupied at the time but he detected a strong smell of cannabis coming from inside and called the police to gain entry to the property.

"On entry to the unit, the police discovered a substantial and well-constructed cannabis factory in operation. They found that the electricity meter had been by-passed.

"The cannabis operation was a fairly sizeable and sophisticated one with 60 nearly full sized plants that were near to the end of the flowering stage in one of the three rooms within a purpose built structure complete with a water irrigation system.

"The second room had evidence in it that at least 24 plants had been harvested, with the remains of root balls and stalks from harvested plants still evident. The kitchen was being used as a nursery to cultivate the young plants.

"The police also observed that a number of smart control devices and cameras were being used to run the cannabis factory."

The court was told that police found letters and parcels addressed to Campbell and Evans at the property along with a recent invoice addressed to Evans.

The bulk value of the cannabis recovered would have yielded between £9,000 and £38,500, but would have been substantially more if the Class B drug had been sold in street deals and could have resulted in a financial gain of £70,000, said Mr Hollingsworth.

The court heard that while a team of officers dismantled the cannabis farm the following day, both Campbell and Evans handed themselves into the police and gave partial comment interviews and admitted running the cannabis factory.

A police drugs expert concluded that it was a small commercial operation but not industrial scale. However, it would have yielded a significant financial gain.

The Judge, Recorder Sarah Regan asked why, as both Campbell and Evans had admitted their guilt at the time of their arrest, it had taken over two years to come to court.

Mr Hollingsworth said that the delay had been caused because of the pandemic and the case had not been prioritised.

Callum Church representing both men said: "The main thrust of my mitigation is that, had Campbell and Evans been charged the following day and appeared at the magistrates court in a timely fashion, the case would have been sent up to the crown court and sentenced accordingly. If they had received a prison sentence, they would have been released by now.

"However, what the delay has allowed the two men to do is demonstrate that this is an isolated incident, and neither of them have been in trouble with the police. Both men have started new employment and have got on with their lives and have already proved that the prospect of rehabilitation for both of them is happening.

"Neither of them will walk away from this court thinking they have got away with it. They are terrified of what could happen to them today and they know it will have been their own fault.

"Producing drugs for sale hurts those around who do it as it affects their families as well."

Mr Church said they are both university-educated men who have since moved on with their lives. During the pandemic they found themselves in financial difficulties and resorted to setting up the cannabis operation, not only to earn money but to fund their own drug habit, he added.

"Both Campbell and Evans admit that they have been stupid and made a terrible mistake and will have to carry the shame of what they have done. "

The pair both pleaded guilty to producing a class B drug in Blockley on February 22, 2021.

Recorder Regan told the defendants: "These offences date back over two years. You bypassed the electricity to the unit and set up a cannabis factory inside. This was a successful venture and you gained financially from it. You both saw this as a way of making money to allow you to repay your debts of the failed business.

"You explain that you were only going to operate a single harvest and had no idea that the operation was a valuable as it was.

"However, because there is no obvious reason why this case had been delayed in coming to court, it affects the way I sentence you. I notice that you have both moved on with your lives.

"You both have two years to reflect on your actions and I have read the testimonials submitted on your behalf which state that you are both hard working men and that your offending was out of character.

"Both of you have stopped smoking cannabis and I note the steps each of you have taken to lead a law abiding life over the past two years and proved that rehabilitation is possible, which means immediate custody can be avoided with a suspended prison sentence.

The judge ordered that both men to pay court costs of £425 and a mandatory surcharge of £156. She also ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the drugs and paraphernalia.

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