Small cannabis factory found in man’s house

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A Rugby man who had set up a “small but relatively sophisticated” cannabis factory, which could have had a turnover of £24,000 a year, has escaped being jailed.

Matthew Keating, 36, of Lawford Road, Rugby, pleaded guilty to producing cannabis and also admitted possessing the class A drug Methadone.

But at Warwick Crown Court he was given an eight month prison term suspended for 18 months, with 18 months supervision and conditions that he takes part in drug rehabilitation and offending behaviour programmes.

The court had heard that when the police went to Keating’s home in November last year they could smell cannabis even before he opened the door. They then searched the flat, and in a bedroom they found three growing tents with a total of 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 under the stairs the officers found 489 grams of cannabis leaf material which could not be used but was indicative of a previous crop. Keating also had 188 grams of harvested skunk cannabis worth £1,900. Also in the kitchen the officers found sets of scales, a baseball bat and a loaded BB gun.

A number of text messages on his phone from people asking for cannabis showed he had “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 began using hard drugs in 1997 and continued for about seven years. He then came off heroin and went onto Methadone, which he has been using ever since; but turned more and more to cannabis when he began suffering from depression after losing a factory job in 2011 because of the recession.

Mr Everett said: “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.”