Rugby man set up cannabis factory in attempt to clear debts

A Rugby man who set up a cannabis factory in a bid to make money to clear his debts was caught after the police responded to a report of a suspected burglary at the premises.

Officers who attended the house in Lawford Road became suspicious about what was going on – and inside they found the illegal crop and paperwork linked to Stephen Coburn.

Stephen Coburn

Stephen Coburn

But was not jailed after he eventually pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to producing cannabis, having originally denied the charge.

Coburn, 39, of Acacia Grove, was sentenced to two years in prison suspended for 12 months and was ordered to do 220 hours of unpaid work.

Prosecutor Paul Mytton, said that in August last year the police attended a mid-terrace house in Lawford Road at just after midnight following a report of an attempted break-in.

There were jemmy marks on the doorframe, and when the officers looked through the kitchen window they noticed a vent and ducting which made them suspect cannabis was being grown.

Stephen Coburn

Stephen Coburn

So they returned two hours later, and when they forced their way in, they discovered cannabis being grown in the front room and two bedrooms.

There were a total of 64 plants, which it was estimated could have produced between 1.7 kilos and 5.3 kilos of cannabis when the plants were mature – with a street value of between £10,000 and £42,000.

In the house the police also found documentation linking Coburn to the property.

As a result he and his wife Jacqueline were arrested, and at an earlier hearing they both denied producing cannabis.

After Coburn had changed his plea to guilty on the basis that it was solely his responsibility, the prosecution offered no evidence against his wife and a not guilty verdict was entered in her case.

Mr Mytton pointed out that Coburn, who had no previous convictions, has said he had started the operation a few weeks earlier.

Caroline Harris, defending, said Coburn had suffered an injury at work, and had suffered the financial effects of being on long-term sickness.

On top of that, there was a wedding to organise and his wife then also lost her job through redundancy, and they found themselves in a lot of financial difficulty.

“This was as foolish mistake in a desperate situation, and one he is not going to repeat.”

Miss Harris said the couple currently have an estimated £65,000 of debts between them which they are trying to pay off, and Coburn now has good employment.

Sentencing Coburn, Judge Sylvia de Bertodano told him: “The police found a cannabis factory. There were 64 plants, one lot almost ready and the other lot smaller.

“You were doing this to make money, and the money you could have made was considerable. You were doing it because you had financial difficulties.

“You did not have a drug problem yourself, so you may not be aware of the ruin drugs do to people’s lives, and not just class A drugs. You, as a non-drug-taker doing this, are preying on the weakness and vulnerability of others.

“This was a significant investment you had made in setting this up, and you stood to make a significant profit.”