Four men who played various roles in operations to use houses in Rugby and Coventry as cannabis factories have been sentenced by a judge at Birmingham Crown Court.
Stephen Cleaver, 43, of Railway Terrace, Rugby, had pleaded guilty during an earlier hearing at Warwick Crown Court to charges of burglary and cultivating cannabis.
Cleaver, whose record meant he was classed as a ‘third strike’ burglar, was jailed for a total of three years.
John Edgar, 44, of William Street, Rugby, who had pleaded guilty to conspiring to supply cannabis, was sentenced to eight months in prison suspended for two years and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work.
Jasvir Singh, 37, of Bawnmore Road, Bilton, Rugby, and Harte, 40, of Mile Lane, Coventry, were both given 12-month community sentences and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work each.
They had both pleaded guilty to separate charges of permitting premises to be used for the cultivation of cannabis.
Singh had allowed a house he owned to be used as a cannabis factory in May and June 2012 – and he entered his plea on the basis that he was not aware what was going on until he visited the address on May 24.
Harte allowed a house he had rented in Gunton Avenue, Coventry, to be used for the same purpose between July 2011 and June the following year.
Prosecutor Philip Bradley had said that Cleaver’s rented flat over a shop in Railway Terrace, Rugby, was raided by the police on June 26, 2012.
In the loft they found a sophisticated cannabis factory complete with suspended lights, fans, ducting and timers – and the electricity meter had been by-passed to power the set-up.
There were 21 healthy cannabis plants with an estimated yield of 945 grams worth £9,450 in street deals – and a potential for three such harvests a year.
Singh owned the house where Edgar lived in William Street, Rugby, and had been seen to visit it in May 2012.
Cleaver was also seen at the property in June – but he said he had used a key he had to go there to steal cannabis, rather than being involved in its cultivation at the address.
When that house was raided by the police, using the key they were given by Cleaver, there were 27 plants being grown in three rooms, with an estimated yield worth around £30,000.
Singh showed the police a tenancy agreement showing he had rented the house to a man called Dean Anderson, and he denied knowing cannabis was being grown there.
He claimed he had last visited the premises shortly after he had rented it out in September 2011.
But when he was then shown a picture taken by the police surveillance team of him visiting the address on May 24, he asked for the interview to be suspended and then answered ‘no comment’ to further questions.
Mr Bradley observed it would have been ‘inconceivable’ for Singh not to have been aware of what was going on when he visited the address.
And he pointed out that the phone number for ‘Anderson’ on the tenancy agreement was one which another defendant had listed as ‘John’s yard.’
There was another cannabis factory at a house in Gunton Avenue, Coventry, which was rented by someone calling himself Alfie Quaker - who was in fact Harte.
The police had seen bags being removed from the house by Edgar and another man, and when it was raided they found 55 cannabis plants being grown in four rooms, capable of producing a yield worth £35,000.
Fingerprints on a propagator lid matched Edgar’s; and when Harte was arrested and questioned, he said he had obtained the tenancy for Edgar from whom he would collect the rent once a month and pass it on to the landlord.
There was also evidence that a flat over the Bloc night club in Coventry had been used for growing cannabis, and the smell still lingered after it had been shut down in April 2012 when Edgar had been seen helping to remove equipment from the flat.