A MAN with a lengthy criminal record who was found with 150 cannabis plants, a full growing set-up and £1,500 cash has escaped jail after the prosecution accepted he was cultivating the drugs for his own use.
Prosecutor Eoin McCarthy told Plymouth Crown Court that when police raided a house in Victoria Road, St Budeaux, no-one was home.
But Steven Bennett turned up during the search.
Officers found scales, a cannabis grinder and a pipe in the lounge and two benches covered in 87 cannabis plants between two and six inches high in pots in a bedroom.
In the loft, they found more than 60 additional plants in buckets, together with 14 lamps, three transformers and several fans.
Bennett, aged 51, told police he had started growing cannabis to combat his alcoholism, but with two other men had started growing it on a “slightly larger” scale.
There was no commercial supply – the men supplied the equipment, he grew the plants and he gave them some of the resulting crop.
Bennett, of Langdale Gardens, Estover, said he received no money or financial gain, was responsible for 75 or 80 plants and had grown six crops, with the other men benefitting from two of them.
He said £1,500 cash found in one room had been earned by him and was not from the sale of drugs.
Mr McCarthy said the Crown had accepted Bennett’s version of events and was unable to say that the cash was the proceeds of crime.
He said Bennett, who pleaded guilty to a single charge of cultivating cannabis, had been offending since the early 1970s and had a long criminal record.
Nick Lewin, for Bennett, admitted his client had been “a hell-raiser in his youth” but added: “His situation now is remarkably different.”
He revealed that Bennett’s partner, who attended court in a wheelchair, had suffered a stroke in January and he was now caring for her.
He had stopped using and growing cannabis and no longer presented a risk of future offending, said Mr Lewin.
The judge, Recorder John Williams, told Bennett he was “a vastly experienced criminal” who had been in more crown courts around the country than he had, but accepted he was now caring for his partner.
He imposed a jail sentence of 10 months suspended for two years with a residency condition, and ordered him to pay £350 towards the prosecution’s £500 costs.