Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Police get gardening tips from drug-grower

olice have been receiving gardening tips on how to improve their tomatoes from a man awaiting sentencing for an illegal cannabis farm, Exeter Crown Court has heard. Gordon McAulay was jailed for 15 months at the court last week after pleading guilty to producing the class B drug between September and December last year in a warehouse at an undisclosed address in Bideford.

McAulay's last official address was Hyfield Place in Bideford but the court heard he is now living in Gunnislake in Cornwall.

Defence counsel Richard Crabb said: "He has been signing on at Tavistock police station while on bail. He has been giving police advice on how to improve their tomato growing and has brought them in a cake."

Prosecutor Lee Bremridge said there was a yield of 69 plants, weighing 6.68kg, with a potential street value of Pounds 30,000. Just under 4kg of this was stronger 'skunk' cannabis.

Mr Bremridge said: "He told police that he was a heavy cannabis user, growing it to smoke, using about 25 joints a day... The drugs liaison officer estimated that there would be around 33,000 cannabis joints from the yield and it would take three years to smoke so it was completely ludicrous to say it was for the defendant's own use."

Police also found text messages on McAulay's phone with phrases including, 'Got any smoke?' and 'I need a few ounces of your nice garden'.

Mr Bremridge added: "He's clearly an organiser, user and supplier."

The court heard McAulay had no criminal record.

Defence counsel Richard Crabb said there was no suggestion that anyone else was working for McAulay's illegal scheme or that it was for largescale supply.

"It's a small holding in one building," said Mr Crabb. "He only started growing it nine months before his arrest," said Mr Crabb. "It's his third crop. He was getting better as time went on, this was the best crop."

He added the defendant had many good character references and was a likeable person, demonstrated by his friendly behaviour at the police station when reporting for bail.

The court heard the defendant was not living a luxury lifestyle on the proceeds of his crime and the prosecution was making no application for a hearing to confiscate assets.

Judge Graham Cottle told McAulay that he had to jail him, as it was a "mediumsized operation" which was "quite sophisticated" but he was taking into account the mitigation.

The judge added that McAulay had initially been reluctant to accept he was intending to sell some of the cannabis but his general attitude showed he was not trying to "shelter behind any excuse" for his behaviour.

He ordered forfeiture and destruction of the drugs.

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