Rugby man running a cannabis factory from home ordered to pay £2,000

editorial image

A Rugby man who had set up a ‘small but relatively sophisticated’ cannabis factory at his home has been ordered to pay more than £2,000 or face two weeks in jail.

Earlier this year Matthew Keating, 36, of Lawford Road, Rugby, had pleaded guilty to producing cannabis.

And at Warwick Crown Court in June he was given an eight month jail term suspended for 18 months, with supervision and a drug rehabilitation programme.

But a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act was adjourned for an investigation into his finances.

At the resumed hearing, Judge Marten Coates was told it had been agreed that Keating’s benefit from his illegal activity had been £12,751.

His assets were assessed as £2,383.81 which Judge Coates ordered him to pay as the proceeds of crime, with 14 days imprisonment in default – after which he would still owe the money.

During the original hearing the court heard that when the police went to Keating’s home in November last year they could smell cannabis even before he opened the door.

In a bedroom they found three growing tents with 13 cannabis plants in them at three different stages of maturity.

They were being grown in fertiliser with the aid of high-intensity lights and fans, and it was estimated the crop, when mature, could yield 415 grams of cannabis.

The set-up was capable of producing three crops a year which would have provided a turnover of around £24,000 a year, said prosecutor Andrew Wilkins.

In a cupboard the officers found 489 grams of cannabis leaf material which was indicative of a previous crop.

Keating also had 188 grams of harvested skunk cannabis worth £1,900 – some of which he had thrown into the toilet ready to be flushed away as the police entered.

There were also notebooks containing his calculations of his potential profit, which he put at £7,500 – and Mr Wilkins observed that he lived well and had several expensive electrical items.

Text messages on his phone from people asking for cannabis showed ‘an expanding circle of people’ who knew he was in the business of supplying cannabis, but there was no evidence of street dealing to strangers.

David Everett, defending, said Keating, who studied engineering and had been a lifeguard at a sports centre, began using hard drugs in 1997 and continued for about seven years.

He then came off heroin and went onto Methadone, but turned more and more to cannabis when he began suffering from depression after losing a job in 2011 because of the recession.

“He has always made it clear that his offending started as a result of him taking over cannabis-growing from someone else. He started off to support his own habit; but he was in a circle of friends and others wanted some, and he supplied them.”

Mr Everett said four of the plants were ready for harvesting, four were about eight weeks away from harvesting and four were seedlings and one was the ‘mother plant.’

Sentencing Keating, Judge Sylvia de Bertodano had told him: “It was a small but relatively sophisticated operation you were running. You were supplying cannabis to a small number of people you knew, and were getting money for that.”