PCSO sniffed out addict’s home cannabis factory

Norwich Crown Court. Photo: Adrian Judd.

Norwich Crown Court. Photo: Adrian Judd.

A Great Yarmouth man pressured into growing cannabis to pay off his cocaine debts was rumbled when a passing police community support officer smelt the plants.

A window was open at the North Denes Road home rented by Michael Barr, when on March 17 a passing PCSO smelt cannabis.

When the officer and a colleague went to investigate, Barr co-operated fully and they found hydroponic equipment, 14 cannabis plants in one bedroom and another 27 plants in the property's second bedroom, estimated to have a street value of between £10,950 and £20,700.

Norwich Crown Court heard yesterday the plants found in the second bedroom could have been worth an extra £12,000 to £17,000 once they matured to the level of those in the first bedroom.

Ian James, prosecuting, said Barr had told police he was growing the cannabis because he owed £30,000.

Mr James said: 'He built up a large cocaine debt and started growing cannabis to pay off that debt to people he wouldn't name.'

Greg Foxsmith, mitigating, said his client had started with a cocaine debt of around £1,000, but due to so-called interest and late payment charges it had spiralled thousands more.

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He said Barr had been a builder, but had been out of work for a few years, partly due to his substance misuse.

Mr Foxsmith said: 'This arrest and the consequences that followed from it came almost as a relief to him. He stopped class A drug use, although he is still using alcohol, he is reducing this intake.'

He said 41-year-old Barr, a father-of-two, had recently started work as a door-to-door salesman for an energy saving company.

Judge Stephen Holt told Barr it was a serious matter for a first offence, but his full co-operation, early guilty plea, previous good character and his remorse had counted towards a final 18-month sentence, suspended for two years, with a requirement for a 12-month supervision order and 200 hours of unpaid community work.

Judge Holt said: 'It does seem to me it would be far more fruitful to the public at large to suspend the sentence rather than sending you to prison immediately.'

However, he warned Barr he could be sent to prison if he committed any further offence within two years.

He added: 'You have your chance Mr Barr, try to get over this and hopefully you can try to put drugs behind you.'